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Deception review
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This is not a thriller!

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This is not a recent movie. So, my review will be to a big extent a response to what is written about it already (by ordinary moviegoers, not by professional critics).

Almost every review I saw on the web is negative or very negative. Also, the movie failed at the box office. The latter is the fault of distributors; the proper way to distribute it was the platform release or the limited release. In plain language, the movie shouldn’t be marketed as a thriller, should be initially released on 6-10 screens (it was released on more than 2000) and then gradually expanded as people learned about it by the word of mouth. The most negative reviews come from viewers who wanted to kill some time by watching a typical thriller and got something different.

“Deception” is not a thriller! It only has the form of a thriller. A lot of people complain about the predictability of the plot and the ending; here two reviewers complain about too convoluted plot and too twisted ending. It is impossible for both points of view to be correct. I think that, as usual, the truth is in the middle and the plot is neither very convoluted, nor entirely predictable.

Another common complaint is that Michelle Williams is a wrong choice for her role. Well, a thriller would have a femme fatale as her character. Michelle Williams does not look like one but she is so good actress (some even apologize: “I know that she is very good, but for this role...”) that I will not risk to say that she cannot play a femme fatale if asked. Definitely, she does not play a femme fatale. Her character, known only as “S”, needs to seduce only one very special person, Jonathan McQuarry, the character of Ewan McGregor, and S does this by doing exactly what is needed to seduce McQuarry. Once this is realized, the whole idea of the movie being a thriller starts to fall apart.

The thriller-like plot serves mainly as a background (but not only – see below). The movie tells a love story and a story of a transformation of a nerdy top-notch accountant Jonathan McQuarry into... – I will not tell, this would be a spoiler. Ewan McGregor’s performance is nearly perfect, as is the performance of two other leads. There is no twist ending. In response to the second reviewer here, I would like to note that “someone managing to show up in another continent and finding an exact location” is not a twist and is not convoluted. That “someone” knows the exact location, and it is not hard for him to guess that he should go there immediately after... (no spoilers!). In fact, he doesn’t need any guessing. The very end of the movie was originally filmed differently, then it was decided that it would be better if changed and the movie ends in this new way. I may suggest going a little bit further in the same direction; this would require about 20-30 seconds of new footage (can be done!). The point is that how the movie ends is not very important.

But there are few “twists”, indeed. A transformation of a person in movies usually involves a love story, no twists here. But in “Deception” the love story grows out of some criminal activity; there would be no love story if someone did not concocted a complicated crime. The transformation starts with McQuarry getting an access to an elite anonymous sex club; something usually considered to be morally objectionable. But McQuarry does not end up being an ashamed devastated person, quite the opposite. Another “twist”: McQuarry seduces his love interest by refusing to have sex with her. So, the movie is also about the role of sex in love and in happiness. It raises more questions than it answers.

One should mention the brilliant cinematography of “Deception” with its cold blue palette for New York and sunny yellow tones for the final scenes in Madrid. Also, a lot is told not directly, but by many unbelievably precise details. Watch for a smile of a girl in a hallway; she did not appear in the movie before this moment and will not show up again. Her smile means a lot. At least one such detail left me speechless: how did they know that such things do happen?!

I highly recommend to watch the Blu-ray disc with all its extras (among them is the original ending). There is a more than one hour and a half discussion of the movie by the director, the leading actors, the producers and some other members of the crew. It is already quite amusing to learn why Michelle Williams is wearing a white coat at the beginning of the movie. In fact, this is important! The word “thriller” is pronounced only once, and reflects only the initial impression of Ewan McGregor about the script and the whole project.

Added by Melancoly Baby
5 years ago on 22 January 2013 04:16


Posted: 1 year, 11 months ago at Aug 25 8:35
What a joke... Of course, it is a thriller! and one of the most convoluted ones I have seen in many years...

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