Don't Miss "The Accountant"
He may be a worthy director, but no one will ever confuse Ben Affleck with an actor like Leonardo Dicaprio or Daniel Day-Lewis. Interestingly enough, Affleck seems to understand this, which is why many of the recent roles he’s chosen have allowed him to stick to his strengths; or, to put it more appropriately, his “non-weaknesses.” The best example of this was in Gone Girl, when Affleck played a brooding, unremarkable character so naive that you cannot help but feel empathetic towards despite his adulterous ways. These types of performances where he plays a dark and often emotionless character can be traced all the way back to 2010 with The Town and even as recently as this past spring’s disastrous Batman v Superman. Although Affleck does not necessarily disappoint, he also rarely emerges as the highlight in any of his films.
This is not the case with The Accountant. Affleck owns the role of Christian Wolff, an autistic math savant with a particular set of skills that would make Liam Neeson nervous. And it is his superb performance that helped make The Accountant one of the most entertaining, and surprisingly hilarious, films of the year.
The plot of the movie begins with an introduction to Christian Wolff as a child at a mental health learning institute in New Hampshire. From the very beginning, it is clear that Affleck’s character has a mental health disorder, one that his hard-liner military father and clearly stressed mother are having trouble coming to grips with. Throughout the movie, various flashbacks to Christian's childhood further exemplify his development into a formidable one-man army. In the present, The Accountant is hired by a robotics firm to track down the cause of millions of missing dollars in their accounting books, discovered in happenstance by low-level analyst Dana Cummings, played by Anna Kendrick. Simultaneously, without much knowledge to Wolff, the Treasury Department is opening an investigation into his shady dealings, as he has been linked to cooking the books for terrorists, mafia leaders, despots, and more.
The film is aided by a high quality supporting cast, such as the aforementioned Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, and Skidmore’s own Jon Bernthal. The supporting cast does an excellent job of filling their character’s archetypes while also staying within their role. A movie suffers when supporting cast members overact their part and make too much of it. When this is avoided, the portrayal of the main character is then put in the spotlight, giving Affleck and the writers ample opportunity to mold Wolff into a fantastic example of someone turning what some might call a disadvantage, i.e. his mental health, into a point of superiority over his enemies. The reserved yet candid nature of Wolff makes him not only ruthlessly efficient but also weirdly affable. While Affleck brings the role to life, credit the writers a great deal for providing the platform for one of the more engaging characters seen in a movie this year.
That being said, the center of the show truly is Affleck. He plays his character so straight that many in the audience, including ourselves, were laughing hysterically at certain moments as if it was a Seth Rogen movie. Do you find people who are unapologetically frank to be funny? If so, you will like Affleck’s character. Do you think Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt are top-level American action heros? Then you may say the same about Christian Wolff after seeing The Accountant.
This is not to say The Accountant does not have flaws. The plot, although compelling, is confusing to the point where certain things simply do not add up. If you press hard enough on a couple of these issues, you will wonder what some of these characters’ motivations were anyway. Moreover, this film hints at international espionage in exotic places like Zurich and Tehran, but keeps nearly all of the action contained to suburban Illinois. That certainly could be a disappointment for some. We could address a few more glaring issues with the film, but that would cause this discussion to get a bit too spoilery.
Nonetheless, The Accountant’s intriguing plot, memorable action sequences, and in-depth character study make it one of the year’s most entertaining films. Given this year’s disappointing blockbusters, such as Batman v. Superman and Jason Bourne, The Accountant, by comparison, is a breath of fresh air, revitalizing the quality of this year’s silver screen action thrillers.