About halfway through director Gavin O’Connor’s new film, The Accountant, I found myself scratching my head. I was deciding whether I liked the film and came to the perplexing conclusion that it had an almost exactly equal number of pros and cons, which persisted until the film’s end.
The film is best described as proficient. A talented cast, notably Ben Affleck, and competently assembled action sequences make for a reasonably enjoyable two hours and eight minutes even if deficiencies in the script, average cinematography and score prevent the film from being great.
The Accountant follows Christian Wolff, played by Affleck, a man with high functioning autism who uses his advanced mathematics skills to work as an accountant for both normal clients as well as some of the most dangerous criminals in the world. Eventually, Wolff must use his obsessively developed combat abilities to take on a client trying to wrong him and those he cares for.
Affleck is by far the film’s greatest strength, with the role of Christian Wolff yielding his most chameleonic, impressive performance in recent years. Affleck portrays autism with commendable accuracy, exchanging his classic movie star charm for painful social awkwardness. Indeed, the film’s exploration of autism is one of the most effective aspects of the script. A conversation between Wolff and Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) poignantly displays the film’s message that it is important to accept and celebrate those who are “different” while also depicting the emotional toll of autism.
In addition to Kendrick, the film’s main supporting cast includes J.K. Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson and Jon Bernthal. Of these four, only Bernthal gives a truly impassioned performance. This is not the fault of the other actors, but a result of their limited screen time. Bernthal is genuinely affecting in an emotionally charged confrontation with Affleck, even if the ending for his character makes little sense. He said his character’s extended involvement in the plot seems overly coincidental given a third-act plot twist.
The script is The Accountant’s greatest weakness. While the film’s exploration of autism is extremely well-constructed, the supporting characters for the most part lack development and motivation and the plot is somewhat muddled, even if the intention of connecting an antagonist’s motivation to Wolff’s struggle is clever.
As mentioned previously, the cinematography and score on display are nothing special. The film has no memorable musical elements, and the only aspects of the film that seem particularly well-shot are the action sequences, which clearly draw inspiration from films such as The Bourne Identity.
Ultimately, The Accountant is a flawed but enjoyable film bolstered by a terrific performance from Ben Affleck. Watching this film is a perfectly fine way to spend two hours but it is not a must-see.