Audacious, stylish and bloody, The Guest ignites, parodies & worships its thriller genre in equal measure…
When a family receive a knock on the door they open it to a handsome and well mannered man (Dan Stevens) who tells them that he served with their son in the military before he was killed. The welcome him in with open arms, relishing the chance to hear stories about their son and his love for them. But perhaps they shouldn’t have been quite so trusting of their new and possibly dangerous guest as the film begins to twist and turn in all sorts of unexpected ways. This love letter to 80’s cinema blends synth, action and horror together in order to fashion one of the most exciting and slightly crazy thrillers in recent years.
One of the great and unexpected surprises in The Guest is Dan Stevens. He’s best known to the world as Matthew Crawley from ITV’s Downton Abbey however three years ago he set out to America in search of shaking that particular image off, and he has certainly achieved it. With his flawless American accent and perfect smile he seems every inch the American hero; one could almost imagine him playing Captain America in fact. However as the film starts getting murkier he brings both a believable violence to the screen and a cutting sense of humour which leaves us sitting somewhere between being attracted to and scared of him. It’s a great and energetic performance and leaves me excited to see what he does next.
As we enter the final act there is perhaps a slight shift towards the more expected and conventional, however unlike some other critics I don’t think that that is necessarily a bad thing as it forms part of the film’s knowing tone and genre faithfulness. What it certainly doesn’t do is eclipse the film’s otherwise inventive plotting and intelligent dialogue. There’s little here which you haven’t seen before in horror and action movies of the 80’s, however it’s all about how its presented here. As the film mutates from one thing to another we are reminded that we aren’t supposed to be taking it all entirely seriously but instead just enjoying the ride, and that’s an easy thing to do with it’s strong humour and bloody action.
There are many out there who claim this is a better movie than Refn’s Drive. It’s easy to see why the films invite comparison with the synth drenched portraits of a lone figure in an updated 80’s action movie. But that’s where the comparisons really should end for this is not a complex deconstruction of its genre but instead is an incredibly faithful action thriller which pays homage to its predecessors whilst also injecting the genre with a fresh energy and sense of excitement. It’s not as intelligent as Drive, instead its sort of its energetic and pulpier younger cousin.
What is the film’s greatest strength? Dan Stevens’ performance.
Its greatest weakness? There are a couple of small supporting performances which let it down a little.
Would I see it again? Absolutely, it’s plenty of fun and should help Stevens on to more varied roles in the future.
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