2016 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Icy art gallery owner Susan (Amy Adams) receives the manuscript of an unpublished novel from her ex-husband Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), the man whose heart she broke two decades before. She reads the novel, which tells the terrifying story a family terrorised by a wild gang on a remote stretch of desert road.  Then she realises that Tony may be trying to tell her something... Michael Shannon and a terrifically menacing Aaron Taylor-Johnson lend mesmerising support to writer-director Tom Ford's chilling and compellingly layered tale of revenge.

Director

  • Tom Ford

Cast

  • Amy Adams

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

  • Michael Shannon

  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson

  • Isla Fisher

  • Armie Hammer

  • Laura Linney

  • Andrea Riseborough

  • Michael Sheen

Review

The icy sophistication of the Los Angeles art scene jarringly collides with the hot violence of the West Texas desert in director Tom Ford's bruisingly accomplished revenge thriller.

It appears that chilly Los Angeles gallery owner Susan (Adams) has it all... but it's soon revealed that she is riddled with self-doubt and suspects her distant husband Walker (Armie Hammer) is having an affair. 

Just as this is confirmed, she receives - out of the blue - an unpublished novel from her first husband, Edward (Gyllenhaal), a delicate wannabe writer whose heart she broke by doubting his ability and leaving him for the super-slick Walker.

She begins to read the manuscript which - in a juddering corrective to her icily cool life in LA - relates how a family headed by Tom (who she imagines as Ed), his wife (Isla Fisher) and teenage daughter is driving across the desert on a hot night.  

Suddenly, they come upon a car-load of redneck thugs led by the psychotic Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, excellent) who run them off the road and subject them to a night of horror that's cruelly designed to test the limits of Tony's masculinity. 

What emerges is a subtle tale of revenge with Susan revealed as a liberal-minded arts grad who failed to realise that she shared a number of unpleasant traits with her viciously civilised Republican mother (played with venom by Laura Linney) and it's this inherited cruelty which is eventually visited on Edward.

This is a marked improvement on Ford's debut ​A Single Man with the director equally at home in his familiar world of high fashion and the less trodden world of Lynchian boondocks squalor (here he's ably assisted by cinematographer Seamus McGarvey).

Persuasively adapted from Austin Wright's 1993 novel Tony and Susan, this cleverly but never confusingly switches and flashes back between storylines to provide an unexpected and modern noir classic.

You'll lose sleep.

Tim Evans