‘Good Time’: the Safdie Brothers direct one of the best action films in years
A doctor has a conversation with a mentally challenged man. Slamming the door open, a second man, agitated, walk in and pulls his brother out of the doctor’s office and reassures him that he doesn’t need any doctors. The two are then seen donning disguises and robbing a bank in quick sequences that are gripping and exhilarating, masterfully edited, and scored to perfection. A chase ensues; an arrest is made; and — 20 minutes into the film — the opening credits roll, the show has begun: this is Good Time.
I’ve never been a particular fan of action movies, for the most part because I’m someone who finds themselves much more invested in characters and plot rather than story. But when I first came across Good Time from Benny and Josh Safdie, also known as the Safdie Brothers, I was intrigued by rumours of its lead Robert Pattinson’s performance. 20 minutes into the film, I could see just why. And while it’s safe to call this a career-best for the Twilight graduate, the reasons to celebrate Good Time are plentiful, and atop them is the striking direction of the Safdie Brothers.
Robert Pattinson leads the film about a heist gone wrong. When Connie (Pattinson) and his mentally challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie) unsuccessfully rob a bank, Nick gets caught by the police. Good Time follows Connie as he tries to come up with the bail money to free his brother.
Despite an eclectic bunch of supporting characters (most notable of which is newcomer Taliah Webster), this is undoubtedly Pattinson’s show. Most action films feature a protagonist the viewer likes and roots for, but that isn’t the case with Connie. Pattinson’s character is a cross between an antagonist and a protagonist, where the viewer neither roots for him neither wishes him any particular ill (though that couch scene raises some eyebrows).
His intention — to save his brother — is a pure one, but the way he uses all the people around him to achieve it is a constant reminder that he is, in fact, an antihero: he abuses the hospitality and kindness of strangers; seduces a young girl to distract her from his fugitive status; and takes advantage of a fellow crook’s connections. He’s narcissistic in that he perceives himself and his motivations as superior to others, making him very unlikable, but also very real.
And this is a highlight of the film: neither the characters nor the progression of the plot feels overstated or exaggerated at any point. Instead, Good Time is a gritty, visceral movie-watching experience through and through, at once an intense, urban, neo-noir crime thriller and a rather glum look into the life of a young, desperate thug.
That said, the story fails to leave the same impression the impeccable technical investment in the film does. From the its editing to its cinematography and jolting, electronic score (courtesy of Oneohtrix Point Never) and colours, the presentation of the film far exceeds its substance. Good Time is a technical firecracker and moviegoers will remember it primarily for that.
What the Safdie Brothers have proven with their filmography over the years — but especially with Good Time — is that they are powerful rising voices in filmmaking. And should their storytelling abilities, both on paper and on-screen, match their craftsmanship, I imagine they’ll be roaring all the way to wider and wider audiences.