WINDFALL (2022) – New Netflix Thriller Intriguing But Slow

WINDFALL (2022), a new thriller now available on Netflix, is enjoyable in the subtlest of ways.

Had it been less subtle and more thrilling, I would have liked this one more.

WINDFALL is the story of a man (Jason Segel) who breaks into a luxurious empty home of a rich CEO, ostensibly just to know what it’s like to live like a king. But when the CEO (Jesse Plemons) and his young wife (Lily Collins) return home early, the man is discovered, and to protect himself, he takes the couple hostage. While they offer him money and invite him to take whatever he wants, and once he leaves, they will forget they ever saw him, he doesn’t trust them. And so he doesn’t leave.

In the ensuing conversation, they decide on the amount of money it would take for the man to leave them and disappear off the grid. The CEO arranges for the cash to be delivered, but it won’t arrive until the following evening, and so they settle in together, with the man keeping the couple hostage. Things grow more complicated when the gardener (Omar Leyva) arrives, and the tension builds as the bizarre hostage situation continues to play out.

The strength of this wannabe Hitchcock thriller is its screenplay by writer/director Charlie McDowell which scores higher with its intriguing dialogue than with its overall story arc. The conversations are wildly interesting and definitely help build the tension.

When it becomes clear the man— and all the characters here remain nameless— doesn’t really want to kill them, the CEO and his wife basically ask him what it would take to get him to leave, and they agree that it would be an amount of money that would safely enable him to disappear. He gives them a ballpark figure, and they nearly laugh him out of the room, as the figure is way too low. When he then goes sky high, the CEO reminds him of just how heavy that much cash will be to lug around. After more conversation, they finally arrive at an amount. There are other such conversations just like this one, which are equally as compelling.

The CEO asks his wife to get close to the man to try to win his confidence, and she does, but she also really does seem to strongly dislike her husband, and so the things she tells the man seem true, and there is doubt as to whether she is following her husband’s instructions or is up to something else.

The three main actors here are all excellent. I’ve never been a big fan of Jason Segel. He didn’t do much for me in either THE MUPPETS (2011) or SEX TAPE (2014). This is the first serious role I’ve seen Segel play, and he’s very good. It’s easily the best performance I’ve seen him deliver. He makes the man sympathetic, as he despises the CEO because of the way he treats his workers, but he’s not a hardened criminal, and so at the end of the day he doesn’t really want to kill anyone. Yet, he is just obscure enough so that the audience— nor the CEO or his wife—doesn’t truly know if he is violent or not. He certainly makes the case that even though he doesn’t want to kill anyone, he would.

I am a big fan of Jesse Plemons, who seems to be everywhere these days. We just saw him in THE POWER OF THE DOG (2021) in which he’s nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He’s memorable and different in nearly every movie he’s in, including THE IRISHMAN (2019). VICE (2018), and GAME NIGHT (2018) to name just a few. And of course, he was unforgettable as Todd in the last season of BREAKING BAD (2012-2013). Here, he’s sufficiently despicable as the unlikable CEO.

Lily Collins is excellent as the unhappy wife who seems just as uncomfortable with her husband as she is being held hostage by the stranger. I first noticed Collins in last year’s MANK (2021) in which she played Herman Mankiewicz’ secretary Rita Alexander. Starring opposite Gary Oldman, she was terrific. She was also in TOLKIEN (2019). Collins is the daughter of singer Phil Collins.

Director/writer Charlie McDowell has crafted a neat little thriller, but the problem with this one is the pace is…. oh….so….slow. You could get up and make yourself a sandwich and not miss anything. Heck you could pop your own popcorn and the three main characters would still be sitting in the living room discussing the situation.

And the film’s climax, when it finally does arrive, is just okay. It’s nothing earth shattering, and unfortunately isn’t as thrilling or satisfying as it should be, considering what happens.

At the end of the day, WINDFALL is a minor little thriller that will entertain for a while with its intriguing dialogue, and its unconventional hostage situation also has merit, but sadly, the payoff for this one just isn’t there.

What feels like a Hitchcock thriller for a time fades into something far less reminiscent of the Master of Suspense.

—END—

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