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Good cop, bad cop 

The Interview a taut thriller that keeps you guessing

The Interview

Directed by Craig Monahan

Stars Hugo Weaving, Tony Martin

NR

June 7-13

GSU's cinefest

PLAYING UPON THE COMMON PARANOIA that the law has become a sticky glue trap of illogic in which good guys get stuck while bad guys navigate loopholes, the Australian bureaucratic roller coaster ride, The Interview, pits a seemingly guileless and clueless loser accused of car theft against a pair of bulldog detectives eager to see their quarry clocking time in the Big House.

The drama opens as relentless, abrasive investigator John Steele (Tony Martin) bursts into the apartment of lily-livered Eddie Fleming (Hugo Weaving, whose face looks like it's already half-caved in under the stress), convinced of the sad-sack's guilt. Having gathered up every shred of evidence and spirited the alleged culprit away to Melbourne police headquarters, Steele subjects Fleming to a grueling interrogation.

The film begins on a Kafka-meets-Hitchcock note of mounting absurdity and mistaken identity. Fleming is led to the police station and grilled by Steele and his underling, Prior (Aaron Jeffrey), whose preferred interrogation technique is a hail of "Fuckwits!" rained on Fleming's head. Steele becomes increasingly reliant upon the interview when his flimsy evidence against Fleming doesn't add up. The tension first-time director Craig Monahan establishes in the interrogation room is as thick as that outside of it, where distrust and double-crossings and vicious jockeying for power define a poisoned, antagonistic, macho office that would do David Mamet proud.

Steele, who at first appears to have the wrong man, seems guided more by Steele's conviction that Fleming is the culprit than any valid proof. A film about how personal prejudices affect the outcome of a situation more than reason or justice, Steele's certainty of Fleming's guilt begins to pay off midway through the film when a bizarre, last minute revelation dramatically throws into question the stakes of this power balance.

But the interview between Fleming and Steele is just one tiny drawer within an enormous bureaucracy, as our certainty of who holds the ultimate power in The Interview continually flip-flops. In The Interview, all truth is filtered through the distorting lens of procedure and its helpmates -- video, audio and red tape -- but just as often through the prejudicial lens of each man's point-of-view. As Steele points out to a superior, "There are too many people around here with their own agendas." Just as the tables turn, our allegiances turn, too, as director Monahan toys with our natural affinity for the victim; first the seemingly persecuted Fleming, then the departmentally undermined Steele. You suddenly begin to sympathize with the bullies who have bullies bigger than them, until finally all identification is left floundering in this outrageously corrupt world.

A labyrinthine mental floss replete with not-always-believable plot twists and intellectual fidgeting, The Interview keeps its audience guessing, along with the characters, as to Fleming's guilt or innocence until the bitter end in this gripping, shape-shifting low-tech thriller.

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