15, 117 mins, Universal Pictures.
Ultra-stylish, superbly crisp & blisteringly compulsive, fashion-designer turned director Tom Ford, follows up 2009’s A Single Man, with a dizzyingly precise, yet perfectly constructed, meandering, multi-stranded narrative of vengeance, violence & retribution.
Seamlessly interweaving three separate time-frames, it tells the present story of Susan (Amy Adams; glacially terrific) an extremely privileged but unfulfilled LA gallery owner, who possesses the titular manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal, rarely having been better).
As she begins to read, the plot of the novel becomes the film’s central narrative: a gritty, murderous neo-noir with Texan drawl and terrifyingly unrelenting nihilistic antagonists - led by a terrific Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Susan also remembers glossily desperate flashbacks of when her and Edward were together.
These three portions are perfectly juxtaposed against each-other, in Seamus McGarvey’s peerless cinematography. The vacuous, lacquer of the hollow present connoting the futility of excess; the fuzzy, dappled past, and the antithesis, with the abject brutality of the apparent fiction…
Utterly striking, its Hitchcockian references are fiendishly clever, from motel signs and graphic-matched showers, to Abel Korzeniowski’s evocatively Hermann-esque score. Laura Linney has a terrific, aged-up cameo, in a sublimely sharp, propulsive, heightened cautionary tale that’s black-hearted - and will stick to your psyche.
Rating: * * * * *