Directed by Nash Edgerton, starring David Roberts, Claire van der Boom, Anthony Hayes and Joel Edgerton.
If you put a gun to my head and gave me three seconds to tell you what my favorite film genre is, I’d probably say Film Noir. I was raised on some glorious science fiction and horror movies. I’ve given many hours to my affection for westerns and war movies. I’ve even developed an appreciation for a precious few romances and romantic comedies. But film noir, via THE MALTESE FALCON, was the genre that first bonded me with my father. This latest tale of the boulevard of broken dreams comes to us from Syndey, Australia.
The Edgerton Bros story concerns two staples of classic noir: an affair between married partners and a bag of money. Raymond and Carla are both married to other people, and both dream of running away with each other. When Carla spies her husband Greg hiding a small fortune in a duffel, she does not waste any time figuring out where or how he got it, she only sees an opportunity to put hers and Raymond’s dream into action. An effort to cover the adulterers’ tracks so they can blow town with Greg’s cash results in an accidental murder. The murder hatches scams on top of schemes, threats on top of blackmail, and creeping suspicion among the residents of a suburban lakeside community.
Many a noir has been knocked from the classic shelf by characters making completely ridiculous decisions for the sole purpose of pushing the story in a direction it did not want to go. THE SQUARE is all the more compelling because George and Carla, and everyone in their web, avoid those decisions. While your idea of a perfect murder may not include their plan, it is important to remember that murder was never part of their plan, it was an unintended consequence. From there, every move they make is reasonable within the context of desperate people running scared. You don’t notice the great feeling of buying a story hook-line-sinker as much as you’d notice the jarring shake of a movie that jolts you back to reality with an unbelievable twist. The Edgerton’s exemplary cast hits every paranoid note in the their air-tight script.
THE SQUARE has another feature that sets it above the vast majority of suspense thrillers, an element lacking in most movies of any genre, which is the possibility of chance. Suspense is destroyed in lesser movies once you realize that everything happens by someone’s design. Everything. One character or another is always in control. As soon as you know what each character wants, you can guess what will happen next, and the rest of the movie becomes a clock winding down to what you knew would happen from 10 minutes in. THE SQUARE makes use of my personal favorite device for throwing a monkey in this wrench: weather.
Rain is the uncontrollable element that drives THE SQUARE into directions no character could have taken it. Rain is a 100% believable wild card because everyone in the audience can relate to having it ruin their best-laid plans. If it sounds like I am making too much of this, go back and watch BODY HEAT and imagine it without the sweltering humid heat wave. Kenneth Branagh and Clint Eastwood are masters of deploying weather in their films. Other random occurrences push Raymond and Carla together, and pull them apart, but rain is so pervasive that nature itself almost becomes a character. If THE SQUARE is any evidence, Noir remains alive and well to bond future generations of movie nerds.