Within the first few minutes of Netflix's latest crime thriller Windfall, you realise this is another retro-inspired movie. The style, the colour palette, the music, and even how the title and credits play throughout the opening sequence are reminiscent of mystery thrillers that would fit well with the 40s and 50s. Some of the setups even remind you of an old-school Hitchcockian thriller.
Directed by Charlie McDowell and with a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker and Justin Lader, Windfall tells a simple story with a few twists and turns. There's also a limited cast with only four characters on screen. The feel of this movie is quiet and impatient as it slowly builds anxiety. However, this is one of those movies I feel could have been better than it is. Even though it has a lot to offer, from the great performances of the actors and that classic style, there's something missing that keeps it from being memorable.
The movie follows a wealthy couple who arrive at their vacation home only to find it's being robbed. It stars Jason Segel who plays a thief who breaks into the vacation home of a tech billionaire CEO, played by Jesse Plemons. Just when the thief is about to make his last-minute escape, the CEO and his wife, played by Lily Collins, show up and inadvertently ruin the escape. The situation forces him to hold the couple hostage until a large payout arrives.
From beginning to end, the characters' names are never mentioned or revealed. This makes it feel like a mystery within a mystery, which further complicates our connection to them. Each character provides an exceptional performance, be it Segel as the desperate thief, Plemons as the arrogant CEO, or Collins as the wife whose marriage suffocates her. There is never a dull moment when they exchange verbal blows. There are themes of social justice and class inequality thrown in as well as a script written to resonate with today's economic anxiety.
The mood in Windfall is not always entirely serious as sometimes the film can be absurdly amusing. There are a few dark comedy elements and a certain level of Coen Brothers' dumb criminal formula to it. The lack of planning and inept behaviour from both parties does make the story somewhat amusing, especially since they're pretty much the only characters in the whole story. However, all the characters feel like strangers to us. Bits and pieces are slowly revealed as the story progresses, but I couldn't say we get to know them intimately. However, we still have enough information about them to form opinions.
This movie is quite short at only 92 minutes. But because it is slow in pace, you might feel the time, especially since most of the film is just waiting for a sum of money to arrive. The majority of this movie's runtime is committed to people sitting around doing nothing. And once it reaches a climax, the story is too predictable in how it is going to play out. Although it didn't ruin my enjoyment, there isn't as much surprise as the film plans to provide. It's a shame the plot feels undercooked in comparison to the technical elements surrounding it. It almost feels like it's a short film that got stretched into a feature-length presentation.
Windfall is an unfortunately average crime thriller that heavily borrows the pace and styling of films from the classic era. While most parts are engaging enough, the progression is quite slow and the movie becomes predictable as it goes along. The surprise and twist may work as a one-time watch, but it's not something I see myself revisiting.
- Starring Jason Segel, Lily Collins, Jesse Plemons
- Directed by Charlie McDowell
- Now streaming on Netflix