The Square (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
10Nov/100

The Square (2010)

ANDREW LIKEThere's an astonishing bit of kismet going on today.  Ryan just put up his insights on the Coen Brothers film Blood Simple and I'm reviewing the film that many have been saying is its spiritual successor, The Square.

It's a nasty little Australian film noir that has a lot invested in land deals and a little invested in adultery.  Both have proven to be pretty fertile ground for film noir's in the past, and director Nash Edgerton milks those angles for plenty of disastrous moments.  If you somehow miss one, don't worry, the way these characters lives are paved out not a single one of them will be happy and content for long.

It's a wonder that anyone thinks that they're ever going to be able to get away with anything.  The opening shots show a couple having sex in a car while another car nearby contains their dogs, watching as their owners go at it.  Ray (David Roberts) and Carla (Claire van der Bloom) are neighbors that have been meeting each other for these little dalliances for some time.  Ray has a lucrative job at a construction yard for a quiet Australian town building a sparkling new village center, and Carla busies herself with her boyfriend, a petty crook named "Smithy" (Anthony Hayes).

Loveless and one sided, just the kind of relationship that you want to see in a film noir.

It's a nice little set up to begin with, and get's devious when Smithy comes home with some money in a bag and blood on his hands.  Carla pretends not to notice, but already her little gears are turning - will she finally get Ray to leave his wife and steal this money?  Ray's got a good job and a pretty wife, this was just a bit of fun, so she plays on his guilt to think of a way to steal the money and skip town.  He comes up with the brilliant idea of stealing the money and hiring an arsonist to burn down the house so that it looks like it was destroyed in the fire.  This, as in so many other noirs, is where things begin to go horribly wrong.

That presupposes that you accept that the whole "affair" thing was a good idea to begin with, but those are minor trifles compared to what lie's ahead.  This is where the film really begins to hit it's stride.  It's incredibly patient about letting every possible thing that can go wrong happen.  All the while it keeps it's characters firmly in the control seat of these actions.  Everything stems directly from a decision that came from someone else, and sometimes fate just gets in the way as well.

If you were told to steal some money and the mobster in question already has suspicious friends, would arson really be the best plan?  How about burying a body in the very place where you work?  Then there are the criminals, prone to their own little impulses.  Ray makes the mistake of hiring the one arsonist in town that is going to have a crisis of conscience, and Smithy isn't really so bad a guy in those opening moments.  In fact, it comes as a bit of a shock that he's a gangster when the big reveal finally comes.

The Square seizes on some choice moments to let the bleakness seep in.

All of these threads unfold with perfect logic, hence the Blood Simple comparison.  But that film took place in a nightmare world where the blood never comes clean, here the film proceeds in cold reality, and the style follows suit.  Brown and grey dominate the color palette, and Edgerton makes great use of the setting with many unsettling and tense moments.  In one particularly chilling scene Ray is doodling a sketch of the square, and seeing how many little bodies could fit inside of it.

We'll see how many by the end.  If you're not already sympathetic to the rhythms of film noir, then the steadily mounting horror might seem almost comical.  But The Square finds a way to arrange these moments in a way that ratchet up the tension wonderfully, until the final moments that, after a certain point, were inevitable.  I was gripped, and love it when a movie is so firmly in control of my reactions that I can't help but scream "No" at all the right moments.

The Square (2010)
Directed by Nash Edgerton.
Written by Joel Edgerton and Matthew Dabner.
Starring  David Roberts, Claire van der Bloom and Anthony Hayes.

Posted by Andrew

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