The Stranger is a 2022 Australian crime thriller that was screened at the Cannes film festival and recently made its way into Netflix. Under the direction of Tom Wright, we are introduced to a very unconventional thriller film, it is only sometimes that we watch movies in the thriller genre like this, and the movie is further made great by the performances of Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris.
The series received positive reactions from critics and audiences alike. It received an IMDB rating of 6.6 and a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. Though the drama is in the genre of crime, it is filmed like a feature film, so if you are someone who enjoys a typical Hollywood thriller, this film might not be for you; that is not to say that you won’t enjoy this film.
You can watch The strangers on Netflix. The movie was ranked in the Top 10 on Netflix the weekend after its release.
The Plot of The Strangers
The movie is about an undercover cop, Mark, befriending a murder suspect, Henry, to coerce a confession out of him and find evidence that he is involved in the crime.
The undercover teams initiate contact with Henry through Paul, another undercover cop. Through Paul, henry becomes part of an organized crime that deals with illegal passports, relocating people, and erasing histories, which is set up by the undercover team to lure Henry into their trap. It is through this organization that Mark and Henry meet. Slowly yet not that slowly, Mark built up his friendship with Henry.
The first step is to get Henry to trust him, and for this ask and Paul repeatedly, on separate occasions, asks Henry to trust the organization because the organization values honesty the most.
They also make it seem like Paul has a dark past, and the agency is helping him escape. Soon we see Henry slowly starting to trust Mark to the point that he even tells him that a shredding yard is one of the best places to dispose of dead bodies.
Then we see further actions that are aimed at making Henry feel at ease, and he can trust the organization and Mark. We also see that Henry has more than just a friendly attraction toward Mark; his sexual interest in Mark becomes clear as the story progresses.
There is also a moment of panic when Henry goes missing, but then the issue is solved, and they move on forward to get Henry to confess. And the last part of the movie is about whether they will be able to get him to convince or not and how to get him to confess.
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Review of the Movie in Detail: Script, Cinematography, and Direction.
‘Based on a true story’ is what it says in the beginning. So, we aren’t going to dissect the script too much because that would be disrespectful. We don’t know how much justice the movie has done to the real-life investigation, but the series was able to make us feel the tension and was able to create an unsettling feeling till the end.
The movie has a documentary feel, so this may not be your cup of tea if you are not into films of that type. The movie also has abrupt cuts in between scenes, with the next scene taking place somewhere else; this adds to the unsettling feeling that the whole movie gives off.
Now, the movie is a feature film, and hence, there weren’t too many over-dramatic dialogues, only those necessary to let the storyline flow and the characters interact. They were no dialogues with deep meanings intended to make the audience think and reflect, which the movie accomplishes mainly through actions. As a result, we are just observing the course of action and understanding what is going on.
As someone unaware of the real-life case or investigation and went into the movie without much research, There was a bit of confusion initially, but soon everything fell into its place like a jigsaw puzzle.
The pace of the movie is very slow, and the movie has a sort of quietness or stillness. There are background noises at times, but for the majority of the film, the background is quiet. It should also be specially pointed out that the background score was suitable for the tone of the movie.
When an intense scene appears on the screen, it is accompanied by this very unsettling background noise that increases our heart rate. The coloring of the movie is also very dark.
In the scene where one of the main leads, Henry (played by Sean Harris), is introduced, the whole screen is black, with a sort of light on Henry alone, thus keeping the entire focus on Henry.
The Background sounds have to be mentioned again because they did a marvelous job of giving the unsettling and creepy feeling without overdoing it. They went with the flow of the movie without distracting us from the actions on the screen.
The direction and the writing of the investigation seem well done because, as a viewer, at times, I felt like I was a part of the investigation team. This also made us feel all the frustration and restlessness the cops who were dealing with the case were feeling.
The disagreements that happen between officers of various positions are also shown at various times. Though the investigation does not go into further details of the case after Henry’s arrest, the case is slightly discussed. But to show the cruelty of Henry, a case of another assault that Henry committed, where the victim survives, is detailed.
The action of the movie is more psychological than physical, and we don’t see any action-packed fighting scene or a ‘badass’ car chasing we are familiar with in thriller movies. Here, they are not chasing Henry but watching him really closely, without his knowledge. They are trying to get a confession out of him without him knowing until the very end.
The friendship between Henry and Mark is a very one-sided friendship because Mark has an ulterior motive, while Henry doesn’t. But the ulterior motive here is for a good cause and not a bad cause, so we really don’t end up feeling bad for Henry as there is absolutely no reason to. Because from the beginning, we know Henry is the culprit, the movie is about collecting evidence to convince the court.
The synopsis that I read kind of misguided me because it said deep friendship. But that was not the case, but the fact that he had to act good friends with Henry, a child murderer, will possibly haunt Mark forever.
Performance of the Actors.
The main focus of the movie is the two main leads, Henry and Mark, there are other characters too, who are an integral part of the movie, but these two take up most of the screen time.
The actor in the role of Henry Teague, Sean Harris, did an exceptional job of embodying his character. The way he fills his eyes with the feeling of suspicion when he meets with Paul and discusses joining the organization.
His imitation of convulsion that people display in a church while having a discussion with Mark. He portrayed the role of Mark with utmost conviction that, at times, we feel like he is a real criminal.
The way he presented the nervousness, the fudging, the suspicion, etc., were all commendable. He really did stand out compared to the rest, to me, at least.
Joel Edgerton, who plays the role of Mark, does not fall behind in his acting either. He acts in such a way that we are aware he is an undercover cop acting as a member of a criminal organization. But the cop’s acting is convincing to Henry because he genuinely believes Mark is similar to him. So he is an actor acting as a cop acting as a criminal; this is not an easy task, but Edgerton did it really well.
There are also other side characters, and all of the actors did their job relatively well. But the other side character that particularly stood out to me was Detective Senior Constable Kate Rylett, played by actress Jada Alberts.
She was very convincing as the police officer who wanted the case solved, no matter what it took. The resolution, and the frustration at not being able to catch the right criminal, were all perfectly communicated via her expressions and body language.
The theme of Trauma
Also, the writing focuses on the trauma that cops deal with rather than on the victim or their family. This could also be because the victim’s family did not prefer to work or participate in the film in any way, which is a very understandable stand. The production team responded they respected the decision and hence avoided using the family for the movie.
Even though we occasionally do think of how difficult it is to be a police officer dealing with murders and heinous crimes daily, we don’t understand the trauma that comes with the profession.
The Stranger explores this trauma through Mark. We are, in a way, pulled into his psyche. The movie lays bare his nightmares, his fears, and his refusal to believe that his work has traumatized him in some ways.
He is working to create a bond with someone who is a possible child murderer, and he also has a young son. His fear that arises from working on the case of child murder with the person of interest is highlighted in a particular scene where he is playing hide and seek with his son.
During the scene, he is unable to find his son, and he gets agitated and scared; he begins to frantically search for him. In another scene, Mark gets a weird nightmare that involves a man with both his and henry’s faces standing near his son’s bed.
The Stranger, which premiered on Netflix five months ago, is a very well-created and acted movie. It is not your typical crime thriller movie; this movie will leave you disturbed. The overall tone of the movie can be described as slow, unsettling, quiet, and suspenseful. The movie can get quite boring if you are not familiar with the pace.
Our Rating: ⭐ (3.8/5).
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