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February 17, 2023 / AppleTV+

Starring: Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, Briana Middleton, John Lithgow

Directed By: Benjamin Caron

Debbie and Peter are best friends and total opposites. She craves routine with her son in LA; he thrives on change in NY. When they swap houses and lives for a week they discover what they think they want might not be what they really need.

Written By Darren

Rating 4 out of 5

Sharper is a tense thriller full of twists and turns and superb performances, and while you think you know where the story is going, the screenplay is always two steps ahead of the audience ensuring that you are on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

When you have films about con artists deceiving their targets, part of the fun of watching them is trying to figure out the end game. Will the con artists succeed? Will the tables be turned on them? Or will something completely unexpected happen? And it is this intrigue and excitement that makes A24 and AppleTV+’s latest film so entertaining to watch. While it seems like you know where the story is going, it is cleverly written to deceive viewers into a false sense of security while a much larger con is pulled off, unknowingly, right in front of their eyes.

Given the many twists and turns of the film, very little can be said about the storyline without getting into spoilers. Without spoiling anything, the film follows a con artist who targets one of Manhattan’s wealthiest billionaires and the many lives that get caught in the crossfires of their con. What the audience is left with is a myriad of truths and lies, trying to distinguish between as the true reach of the con and the motivation for it is slowly revealed over the course of the film. The ending is shocking and will leave a twisted smile on your face because of the reveal, though it is not such a massive twist that you will still be talking about it months later.

Being a film produced by A24, there is the studio’s signature artistic style that you do not see in the mainstream Hollywood films. And for this film it is its narrative structure, which is separated into multiple chapters each told from one character’s perspective. We get into each character’s mind as one part of the story is told, before jumping to a different point in the story within another character’s mind in the next chapter. We never see the same events play out from different perspectives, helping to keep the plot moving ahead and hiding what the end goal of the story is. This aids in building the suspense and mystery of the con, as we are slowly given pieces of information as the film progresses. With each reveal, you instantly put together a piece of the puzzle, only to be given another piece in the next chapter that has you questioning if everything is truly that simple. This causes the tension of the story to build, so by the time that we reach the last main character’s perspective, you are in for one thrilling ride as everything that has been set into motion comes to a head.

Without a doubt the highlight of the film is the exceptional performances from the entire cast. It goes without saying, but Julianne Moore is as always outstanding in one of the main roles as Madeline. The elegance that Moore brings to the role, along with a razor sharp wickedness makes her character one that you can’t take your eyes off of while simultaneously hoping you never run into her in real life. Sebastian Stan is once again gifted with a dark, unhinged role, allowing him to deliver another great performance. At times playful and charming, Stan also harbours a true sinister nature that makes him the perfect con artist. Plus, he has another wild dance sequence that is right up there with Fresh, making it now a requirement for Stan to have a dance break in every film going forward.

While she only has a few credits attached to her name, Briana Middleton is exceptional in the role of Sandra. The empathy and grit that she brings to the role is outstanding, helping to create a character that you can’t help but feel bad for given the world she has been caught in. Middleton makes for a stellar addition alongside the likes of Moore, Stan and John Lithgow. Despite a smaller role, John Lithgow is solid as always as Moore’s husband Richard. And even though I have never been over enthusiastic about any of his performances that I have seen prior to this one, Justice Smith proves that with the right material that he can deliver a very good performance, rounding out the principal cast. The result is a film full of excellent performances, delivering an acting tour de force that keeps you on your toes, as you never know what these characters are up to or who you can trust.

A24 and AppleTV+ have another hit on their hands, as Sharper is a truly entertaining watch. Whether it be the story that keeps you guessing as to where it is going with the wild twists and turns, or the truly outstanding cast led by the excellent Julianne Moore and Sebastian Stan, Sharper is a riveting thriller that simultaneously plays a con on the audience to create one exciting experience!

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