Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man you hire to track down missing people. Joe is also a skilled ex-veteran who is permanently traumatised by his dark past. When Joe works, he walks around confidently and has no problems using violence to get the job done. After getting the job done and collecting his pay, Joe comes home to his elderly mother, who he takes care of.
After completing a recent job, a New York senator soon offers Joe a new mission. The purpose is to find and rescue the Senator’s 13-year-old daughter, who may have been captured.
I enjoyed the fact that Joe, as a character, is no 007. It’s clear that while he is skilled, he’s also a man with a horrible past, but in the end, he is competent for any task. To the audience, we feel Joe does what he does to distract himself or perhaps occupy his thoughts from dwelling on his hell.
The film is loaded with tension, but to my surprise, it’s also all shot beautifully. We see the smashing and bashing when Joe is on a mission. The director here gives us enough understanding to know what Joe is doing each step of the way without showing us every detail. Other scenes are filmed creatively, allowing us to see Joe’s mind and thoughts. These scenes can be like a dream sequence; viewers might find this slow and tedious. Others may lock into what we see of Joe’s world and be thankful for how much we see his personal life. I loved how original this film was. Showing different camera angles and Joe’s mind in depth only helped me better understand the situation and the characters. Naturally, it’s these types of moments that also build the suspense!
From a performance level, I loved Joaquin Phoenix. While I understand the actor has kept himself busy on screen, I enjoyed his work here more than anything else I’ve seen of him recently. The 13-year-old victim (actress Ekaterina Samsonov) also acts incredibly, providing perfect screen chemistry with Joaquin Phoenix’s character. I personally enjoyed seeing these two work together as the story built up.
Overall, I found this film somewhat surprising in a positive way. The film is dark, gritty and loaded with tension as it progresses, but we also gain a greater understanding of Joe’s thoughts and his mind. We are given plenty of creative detail thanks to the excellent work of the director. That being said, I feel many will enjoy the film’s creativity while others might start to look at their watch during the film. I loved it, and it was great to see something new and fresh in 2018 with yet another solid performance from actor Joaquin Phoenix.