Netflix film “Windfall”, which was released on last Friday, is a little modest thriller which could be a solid entertainment if it simply trusted its three principle cast members. As well-qualified performers, they do their best with its rather thin screenplay, and things always get interesting whenever the movie focuses on whatever is going on among their characters, but, alas, it later loses its narrative pacing too often as our level of interest is decreased bit by bit.
At first, the movie feels like your typical home invasion flick as a nameless dude by Jason Segal, who also wrote the story along with director Charlie McDowell and their screenplay writers Justin Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker, spends some time in a luxurious vacation house located in some remote area. Although it initially seems that he broke into the house just for stealing money and some valuable stuffs inside it, he decides to stay a bit longer as looking here and there in and around the house, and that is when the owner of the house, played by Jesse Plemons, and his wife, played by Lily Collins, arrive at the spot.
Despite his possession of a gun, Segal’s character tries to hide himself from the owner and his wife, but, of course, his presence is soon exposed to them, and that is subsequently followed by a problematic hostage situation among these three figures. It turns out that the owner is a very wealthy man who is incidentally the CEO of some big digital technology company, so he may give the money demanded by Segal’s character, but there is one catch. While the owner does have lots of money, it will take some time for him to get the money delivered in cash, and that naturally means that he and his wife will be held by Segal’s character for one day at least.
As long as the owner and his wife keep themselves still and quiet as demanded by Segal’s character, everything may turn out to be all right for all of them, but, not so surprisingly, the mood gradually becomes tense among them as the owner seems to try on some other options besides giving the money to Segal’s character without complaint. Sure, he is rather casual about losing a bit of his supposedly enormous fortune, but it is apparent that he does not trust Segal’s character much, and he is willing to use his wife as a sort of pawn for any opportunity of gaining an upper hand in his tricky situation with Segal’s character.
In case of his wife, she certainly wants to get away from their increasingly inconvenient circumstance, but it slowly turns out that she has some other thoughts behind her detached façade. While she and her husband look like a fairly good couple on the surface, we gather little by little that they have not been that honest with each other – especially when she happens to have a little private conversation with Segal’s character.
In contrast, the movie is a little too ambiguous about the real intentions of Segal’s character. Although it is apparent that his current financial situation is not so good to say the least, we are not so sure about what exactly he feels and thinks about his two hostages. He certainly dislikes the owner a lot, but he seems to envy all the luxuries belonging to the owner and his wife, and he is also sympathetic to the wife as getting to know her a bit.
Rather than focusing more on the tense and uneasy interactions among its three main characters, the movie unfortunately takes a left turn during its last act, and that is where it begins to stumble more than once while dissipating what has been accumulated on the screen fairly well till that narrative point. When it finally arrives at the finale, it is blandly predictable instead of being surprisingly inevitable, and that is the main reason why the movie feels rather hollow in the end.
Nevertheless, the movie works to degree as the showcase of the talents of its three main cast members, who also incidentally participated in the production of the film. Although he is the weakest one in the group, Jason Segal shows his more serious side which he previously demonstrated in “The End of the Tour” (2015), and he manages to bring some real sense of desperation and frustration to his under-written character. Lily Collins, who has steadily advanced since I noticed her for the first time in “Mirror Mirror” (2012), ably suggests her character’s complicated emotional status along the story, and Jesse Plemons, who has been one of the most dependable actors working in Hollywood since his notable supporting turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” (2012), has lots of sly fun with his character as giving another fine performance to be added to his impressive acting career.
I could discern how much McDowell, who previously made a solid feature film debut with “The One I Love” (2014), and his crew members tried behind the camera, but “Windfall” does not have enough ground for his main performers to go further than demonstrating their acting ability. As reflected by a number of heavy-handed aspects such as David Marks and Saunder Jurriaans’ occasionally intrusive score, the movie also does not seem to be confident about its main performers, and that makes me wonder more about whether it could actually be more improved via simply observing its main performers doing their job in front of the camera in addition to giving them more stuffs to handle. In short, the movie is not a total dud at all, but I still cannot help but feel that there is a better film somewhere inside it, and that lingering dissatisfaction prevents me from recommending it.