Published Apr 15, 2010It's about time The Square found its way to a theatrical release in North America, having come out in its native Australia in the summer of 2008. For a while, I was concerned that one of the best noir films in some time ― think partly flawed Coen Brothers with less self-satisfaction ― would be lost in the shuffle, dumped into the world of unnoticed DVD releases.
Told with a precision and sharp eye that canvass each environment with graininess, and shadows that force us to look deeper for clues, juxtaposed with harsh lights that reveal all, The Square is a parable of greedy optimism and unforeseen, compounding, tragic coincidences. Ray (David Roberts) is a married construction business owner trapped in a life of his making, sleeping with a similarly confined neighbour, Carla (Claire van der Boom).
When Carla discovers a wad of cash hidden by her criminally involved husband, Greg (Anthony Hayes), she concocts a scheme with Ray that would free them from their mundane lives and allow them to run off together. Of course, we all know how these things go, so when Ray hires someone to burn down Carla's house, the air of tragedy starts to unfold.
While some of the logistics of a complex plot occasionally leave holes ― mostly involving the titular square and workplace injuries ― the sense of foreboding and timing for the unexpected are pitch perfect. This comes partly from Edgerton's careful, lingering direction that frequently engrosses us in the knowledge of impending horror, experiencing it with the characters, and Roberts' resigned, but strangely determined, performance as a man trapped, ironically, in another doomed cycle of his making.
Thematically, there is nothing new here, as this is essentially Fargo without the goofy accents and twisted sense of humour, but the clever plotting and consistent tone give it that distinct, and rare, heartfelt intelligence that makes it superior fare.
Even the sidebar trajectory of a dog repeatedly swimming across a pond to meet his lover ― struggling to stay afloat ― comes off as sincere and devastating, rather than as contrived, which it easily could have. (Alliance)