“Good Time,” directed by siblings Benny and Josh Safdie, is a riveting crime thriller about two brothers that is comprised of unexpected turns, suspense and a dollop of absurdist comedy. While many bank heist movies demonstrate the hazards that accompany crime, the Safdie brothers’ film manages to take the genre to new heights by displaying in-depth how the repercussions of a criminal act affects not just the guilty party, but the people around that person. It’s an exhibition of empathy, as the viewer experiences all of the negative impact caused by one man. I struggle to recall a crime film in recent years that possesses as much conflict as this movie.
Robert Pattinson stars as the resourceful, charismatic, self-assured Connie Nikas, and it appears to be the start of a career renaissance for the “Twilight” alum — it is an Oscar-worthy performance. Pattinson achieved a new level of confidence and command on screen in this role. When he first appears in the movie, he exudes a sense of aplomb previously unseen from the 31-year-old actor. This is also the first time Pattinson has tackled a character that required a great deal of depth, which makes this an even more incredible feat.
Nikas, who believes wholeheartedly he knows what is best for his developmentally challenged brother Nick, persuades him to rob $65,000 from a bank. After they complete the robbery, their get-away driver picks them up. As they drive away from the scene of the crime, a dye pack explodes, which causes the driver to crash. When the police track down the two brothers, they are able to capture Nick, but Connie escapes.
Initially, Nikas tries to scrape up enough money to bail his brother out of jail. However, Nick is severely beaten by a fellow inmate in prison, which changes Nikas’ plans: he now has to break his brother out of a hospital, which he does via luckily and creatively duping the police and the hospital staff. What ensues soon thereafter is one of the most unexpected, hilarious and meaningful story twists on the big screen in many years, which is a testament to the screenplay. It changes the movie’s entire trajectory at that juncture. I had no idea where the movie was going to take me next, which is a wonderful, rare experience.
While the film has a stupendous screenplay, it is also visually rich. Sean Price Williams’ eccentric cinematography enhances the actors’ performances. A bulk of the shots in this film are close-ups. The combination of Williams’ photography and Pattinson’s facial expressions usually say more than dialogue ever could — and that is simply exquisite visual storytelling.
Undoubtedly, “Good Time” depicts how a criminal action can cause a chain of tragic events. While Nikas’ love for his brother Nick is commendable, it drives him to commit and cause several unfortunate occurrences, but Nikas is blind to that until the film’s end. In the movie’s final moments, Nikas stares blankly, realizing that his night of criminal activity caused irreparable damage to others’ lives — which is all conveyed so wonderfully well in a single close-up shot on the face of Pattinson.
“Good Time” is a 100-minute wild ride that crashes hard in the end. Pattinson’s performance, Williams’ cinematography and the screenplay combine to make this one of the year’s best films.
Good Time debuted in Pittsburgh on Aug. 25. The AMC Waterfront 22 and Southside Works Cinema has scheduled showings throughout this week.