You know, lemme ask you a question first. You’re a heartless bottom feeding motherfucker. Well, I guess it’s not really a question. Is it?
I write this introduction for this review after watching the film, which is something that most of you know that I don’t do that often, infact it’s very rare indeed, and the reason I have done this is that it was a spur of the moment thing to finally watch a film that had been on my “Films I Want To Watch” playlist for some time after England conceded a last minute equaliser to Russia in the European Championships.
Because of that I had no time to write an introduction beforehand, and I’m sort of glad I didn’t because it was actually going to be my second time of attempting to watch “Rudderless”. The first had come a few months ago but I wasn’t in a mood at the time to watch a near two-hour film (if you haven’t noticed most of my reviewed films fall between 80-100 minutes), but after rewatching the trailer the other night, I knew that it was what I wanted to go with.
Please note that at some point I will be talking about the twist in the film, so please be wary going ahead.
Sam (Crudup) has just secured a major contract for his advertising firm and he calls his son Josh (Miles Heizer) to celebrate. Josh fails to show up to the bar and it is only as he is leaving that Sam notices that there has been a shooting at Josh’s school, and that he is one of those dead. The family spends several days grieving and Sam returns to work, stating that it’s what he needs.
Two years later Sam has left his job and now works as a contracting assistant at a house, as well as living on a boat. After a visit from his ex-wife (Huffman), he comes across some of his son’s music and he decides that the best way to mourn his son is to sing his music to a mass audience. He goes to a local open-mic night and performs one of Josh’s songs, capturing the attention of Quentin (Yelchin), an aspiring musician that works at a doughnut shop.
After a bit of convincing Sam agrees to let Quentin play with him, and it eventually becomes a band as more members join the band, but when the truth about the day in which Josh died is revealed to the band, it threatens to destroy everything.
So, the twist?
I’m going to get it out of the way now and talk about the twist. Now, for those who don’t want to read what the twist is, I am going to place a series of ===== after talking about it so that you know where you can rejoin in, but trust me when I say that it is an excellent twist and one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. Alternatively, look to the next image as that will be the point at which I finish talking about the twist.
Right, so if you’re still with me then I assume that you want to know what the twist is then?
Well basically obviously we know that Josh was killed as part of the mass-murder that was committed at his school, but about 3/4 of the way through the film you learn that he was actually the murderer. This isn’t revealed or even generally thought about prior to that point in the film, but the clues are there (such as it seeming very odd that news crews would be so obsessed with getting an interview from Sam) and it also brilliantly explains why Sam has trouble dealing with his grief. Obviously he wants to grieve for his dead son, but he can’t bring himself to accept that his son would do such a terrible act.
The best twists are the ones that make you sit up and focus your eyes on the screen, and that happened for me with this. When you see Sam and his ex-wife at the grave, and you see that it has words such as “murderer” written all over it, it just clicks you’re like “damn, that is a great twist” because up until that point you knew exactly how you felt about the situation, but then it starts making you question the usage of his songs, something which becomes the central plot point of the final half hour or so of the film.
Right, that’s it, spoiler done. I don’t normally do spoilers but I just had to talk about it because of how brilliant it was.
So away from spoiler talk I have to start with the performance of Billy Crudup. I had only ever seen him in three films (that I can remember him in anyway), Watchmen, Spotlight and Glass Chin, and this was comfortably his best performance across the board for me. He is just fantastic and his delivery of already excellent lines of dialogue were a delight.
It’s at that point where I can’t actually imagine anyone else playing the role of Sam, and he does it so brilliantly, especially in a scene near the end when he finally breaks down over what has happened (see spoiler if you are curious). You are engaged with him as a character, and you understand exactly where he is coming from. His tragic character is brought even more into focus when the twist is revealed, and Crudup brings you right into that character with a heartfelt and laudable performance.
He heads up a cast that are all fantastic, and Anton Yelchin, despite playing what seems like a typecast character for him, is also great. My one real complaint about his character is that Laurence Fishburne’s character mentions that he needed help, but you never truly find out why.
The music in “Rudderless” is excellent and very catchy, it’s easy to see why people in the film kept going to see them and how they grew, and it might even be worth buying the soundtrack as well, that’s how enjoyable it was.
And finally, I’m going to talk about something I don’t usually talk about and that is the direction of the film. This was William H. Macy’s debut as a director and he made a promising start. I have no idea if he has directed anymore films since (I can’t be bothered to look just for the sake of writing this, I might look afterwards), but if any of his follow ups are anything like this then I would be very keen to see them.
I am actually very surprised that this didn’t get a mainstream release, or at least not in the UK anyway. I think this film would have done very well in the UK market, and I urge anyone who hasn’t seen it to do so.
The acting is fantastic from all concerned and the music throughout brings you right into the film, and you have a genuinely good time watching it, especially with the twist.
I can’t recommend “Rudderless” highly enough.