by Tony Dayoub
Director Nash Edgerton is a name to remember. Making his feature film debut with The Square, the Australian stunt man crafts a fine neo-noir with his brother, actor/screenwriter Joel Edgerton (Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith).
Edgerton demonstrates a masterful grasp of the cinematic techniques necessary to ratchet up tension in a way that escapes the far more experienced Samuel Bayer, director of the last film reviewed here, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010). Where Bayer depends on music and shock tactics and still fails to elicit anything but a quick recoil in his audience, Edgerton piles obstacle after obstacle onto the shoulders of construction foreman Ray Yale (David Roberts) as he plans an exit with his married mistress Carla (Claire van der Boom) from his own rather humdrum marriage. A cliche story involving money and murder right out of James Cain's novels becomes something more with the Edgerton brothers' application of location and temporal setting; a summertime Christmas in a small Australian town where it seems you can't make a move without some neighbor or other finding out becomes a convivial nightmare populated by scores of potential witnesses to the crimes Ray is forced to commit. Camera placement and framing become key with the tight close-ups usually employed haphazardly in other films designed here to underline as much about what is left out of the frame—and the story—as what is left in.
To say anything more risks revealing some of the satisfying twists the film's plot so strongly depends on. But anyone wishing to discuss it further in spoiler-ific detail feel free to leave a comment.
The Square is in limited release across the country, packaged along with Edgerton's short film, Spider (2007), a blackly comic knucklebiter which telegraphs its dichotomous intentions with its opening title card: "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." - Mum