‘Sharper’ Review: “Neo-Noir Done Right”
Noir or detective films are a very niche genre. These films often involve some kind of concise mystery that the audience and main protagonist spend the entire film trying to solve (extra points if it has narration). In recent years, however, it has had a bit of a resurgence. Apple TV+’s new film Sharper is a neo-noir film that fits the build in such an amazing way. While there’s no narration, it’s just a great anxiety-inducing mystery that you have to watch from beginning to end.
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Sharper follows Tom (Justice Smith), Sandra (Briana Middleton), Max (Sebastian Stan), and Madeline (Julianne Moore). This very odd group of people cross paths in a story about fraud and con artists. The plot is hard to explain without spoiling the film. Ultimately, this is a film about a con artist causing a man to go all out for the proper revenge. This is about love, money, and lust.
These are people who are all unknowingly intertwined and even when their paths cross you hardly notice until their chapter comes about. Alessandro Tanaka and Brian Gatewood gave us an amazing script from top to bottom. This was more than well thought out, this was exceptionally planned and well done. I am still reeling and blown away after watching. This was great storytelling and script writing blending together to astonish the audience. Noir films are great, and this beat the mark by miles.
Sharper is also just a clinic for acting. Middleton, Moore, Smith, and Stan give some amazing performances. In addition, Kerry Flanagan, Hannah Dunne, and Quincy Dunn-Baker are great supporting characters. Each actor was calculated and very technical onscreen. From facial expressions to body language, this was a film that was hard to figure out until the end. The actors played their parts very well.
Cinematography helped the director and the script tell the story. Charlotte Bruus Christensen helped move the film along bit by bit. The camera angles helped catch the facial expressions at different times in Sharper to give the story a better understanding. As the story unfolds, the cinematography gets a bit more tough and dark until the end. The score is a fun one to remember but not something for a traditional mystery movie. Usually, noir films all have that mysterious music in the background but this wasn’t mysterious to me. It was soothing like you’re watching anxiety onscreen, but hearing calming music, it switches during the confrontational scenes but it still isn’t as anxiety-inducing as you’d expect.
There are several elements in Sharper and themes that may hit hard for some viewers. Addiction, scamming, and emotional abuse may be triggering for some. There are several things to unpack as the film reveals more of the characters’ motivations. Being free to choose and understanding choice is also important to this film. Love and jealousy create the atmosphere and revenge feeds it, this is a very complex film with a simple plot in reality. When you factor in emotions and motivations, this is what a noir film is made of.
Undeniably, Sharper is a vague film from the beginning. As it goes, it unravels and gives you something amazing. It’s like opening a box and there’s a smaller box inside. The plot thickens is a great example of the story for Sharper. This was a great way to bring the noir genre into 2023. We’ve seen the noir or mystery genre grow in both film and audiences. This film may be a part of a bigger renaissance.
Overall, Sharper has been one of my personal favorite films in 2023. Actual noir films have been made but very rarely have done well at the box office lately. Maybe moving them to streaming services will help bring it back to the forefront like it was post WWII. Those early noir films from the 60s that turned sci-fi like Blade Runner are important. The next generation needs them as well, and with films like Sharper, safe to say it’s in good hands. – Rascal F. Kennedy
Rating – 9.5/10
Sharper is streaming on Apple TV+.
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