I have to admit that I struggled with this one.
Netflix has a new thriller/crime film called The Stranger featuring Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris and I was excited to watch it. The problem was that I was confused by what was going on for a good chunk of the film, and even at the close of the movie, I was not 100% sure of what I watched.
Part of the problem was my own because when I started the film, I had it on in the background and I was finishing up something else and I did not give it my full attention and, by the time I did, I was lost. The scenes all seemed to jump around and I was not sure when or where some of them were taking place.
According to the summary on Rotten Tomatoes, “A friendship forms between two strangers. For Henry Teague (Sean Harris), worn down by a lifetime of physical labor, this is a dream come true. His new friend Mark (Joel Edgerton) becomes his savior and ally. However, neither is who they appear to be, each carry secrets that threaten to ruin them — and in the background, one of the nation’s largest police operations is closing in.“
Despite my confusion of the plot, Sean Harris and Joel Edgerton were totally compelling and they each brought a tour de force performance to this film. Sean Harris especially brought a haunting quality to Henry that made him something special to watch.
I think the scenes with Mark and his son (Cormac Wright) were what threw me off the most because they were interspersed in the film and I was not sure where they were supposed to fall in the narrative. I thought maybe Mark’s son was somehow a victim in the eventual crime and I kept waiting for that twist to come.
The film was brutal and bleak. It was filmed as such and there were plenty of moments in the film that elicited powerful reactions from the audience. The visuals of The Stranger were just as impressive as the dialogue between the two seasoned actors.
This is a film that could benefit from a rewatch, with more attention given the beginning, especially with the foreknowledge of what was actually going on. Either way, the film contains two master performances and some original storytelling unlike most crime dramas out today. If it is more challenging than others, that is a great thing.