The Stranger (2022) Movie Review – A bleak true-crime story setup in an ironic ruse to settle on the truth

A bleak true-crime story setup in an ironic ruse to settle on the truth

The word “stranger” has to be one of the most ubiquitous things in movie titles. Adding the word in the mix itself gives you an impression of mystery and intrigue. On its own, it piques your interest in the story and readies you for an engrossing experience.

The Stranger on Netflix, however, subverts all of those expectations. The flavor of mystery and storytelling is completely reinvented for the penchant of rare suitors seeking a complex challenge to dissect.

Sean Harris and Joel Edgerton play the bad guy and the cop, but the actual ramifications of these classifications are rather not as simple as they seem in the scheme of the film. The film is based on true events that sparked the largest investigation into the occasion of a child killed in abduction.

The Stranger works in a Shutter Island-like ruse to get out the truth. Although it is distinctively less dramatic and more poignant, that is the basic premise of the story. Paul and Henry (Harris) meet on a bus and the former introduces the latter to his boss, Mark (Edgerton), who is an expert in making criminals looking to escape the reality of their lives disappear. But little to Henry’s knowledge, Mark is actually an undercover agent with the crimes unit. From there on in, we see the largesse of the plans behind the works unfold and devour Henry’s trust, only to deliver him to the justice he evaded all those years ago.

There is perhaps nothing straightforward about the movie. The storytelling is highly obtuse, seldom settling on a clear direction or answer to a question. It always takes the harder way out that involves establishing deep, volatile connections between the two men.

Henry and Mark propel the story forward by spending more time with each other with a skewed scale of honesty bringing them together.  Mostly, the background is filled with information and words. The soundscape is quite heavy on those. But in their absence, everyday sounds of things being displaced come out with monstrous viscosity. It is indeed very minimalist.

There’s hardly any background score you can grow accustomed to, except the constant, ominous fluttering around the mountain ridge we visit often. And as a result, even the banalest of sounds, like a floorboard creeping when half stepped on, can have an overwhelming effect. Also, thanks to Netflix’s brilliant rendition through its Dolby surround sound and ADS technology, The Stranger envelops you when you watch it with a good set of headphones on. The minimalism is a wise touch, given how verbose the screenplay is. This dynamic with the narrative enhances the storytelling experience for you as a viewer.

Every minute is sewn together to keep you engaged with the narrative and with the characters all the time. The dialogue has a flimsy, fleeting quality that you can miss even if you take your attention off for a second. It wouldn’t be fair to call The Stranger plotless because of how unwittingly it all comes together in the end, despite how it feels in the vast landscapes.

For long stretches, you can’t help but feel that this film is a story of the two men, bonding, and growing intimate and not an investigation into getting a confession and solving a decade-old mystery. Joel Edgerton the man and Joel Edgerton the undercover officer should ideally be disjointed.

However, as time wears on and Henry opens up about his life, interests, and details of character, the former two become less and less disjointed. The blurry line that people in his shoes often have to keep intact to have a balance is gradually wiped off. Sean Harris is a worthy companion to Edgerton, matching him every step along the way.

That is what makes The Stranger an intense character study and also a battle for justice that is not vacant. Emotions dictate the latter, while the tragedy of the human condition the former. For all its patience and artistic purity, The Stranger does feel like moving at a glacial pace.

The tone and tenor are easily unlikeable and won’t sweep you off your feet. They become a challenge for average viewers not content with a slow burn where talking is the chosen way to uncover the truth of the story.

The Stranger does not take too much time to arrive at its central conceit – an undercover team working hard to catch their culprit – but takes its own sweet time to adjust you to its cinematic universe where trust is a declining commodity. Full marks to Thomas Wright for remaining true to his vision and not compromising on it to make it more palatable.

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  • Verdict - 8.5/10

3 thoughts on “The Stranger (2022) Movie Review – A bleak true-crime story setup in an ironic ruse to settle on the truth”

  1. I love this movie. I have watched it several times. The acting is vital and makes this film mysterious yet so real.
    How Mark has to suffer this man, Henry,
    for five months to bring about the objective of getting a confession
    This is the best movie I have seen in a long while.

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