Rob Reviews "You Were Never Really Here"
Joaquin Phoenix, action star? Well, kind of.
At first glance, his latest film “You Were Never Really Here,” directed and adapted for the screen by the off-beat artist Lynne Ramsay, is very reminiscent of “Taken”. Add to that a bit of “Man on Fire,” and you have the tale of Joe (Phoenix), a military veteran who works as a hired gun specializing in young kidnapped girls. His boss, John McCleary (John Doman), brings him a case of a longer-than-normal missing daughter of a local politician. Upon locating her, he becomes a target in a much bigger plot where no one is what they seem and time is not on either his or his charge’s, Nina Votto (Ekaterina Samsonov) side.
This film is one that truly walks to the beat of its own drummer, and to compare it to either of the films I mentioned in the previous paragraph would be doing it a disservice. This plays out in a very graphic novel kind of way (based on a book by Jonathan Ames) with very little dialogue. The way Ramsay shoots this does more for the story than any extra talking could, with multiple cuts that make the action more intense than just the average fight scene. For instance, as Joe rescues Nina from her captors, he is seen attacking the guards through the eyes of the facility’s security cameras with a series of shots that are just off-frame. By avoiding the normal gore that comes with a guy in a scene like this (the hashtag #BringTheHammer ain’t referring to old school hip-hop, kids), the imagination running wild adds a level of wide-eyed expression that is lost on many films of its ilk. Phoenix does some of his best work I have seen in a long time, relying on his body language and “I will kill you if I need to” stare to carry everything the audience needs to know about the character. The flashbacks to his experiences that have contributed to making him the man he has become are also done in quick-flash fashion, which kept me a bit off-kilter as the film progressed in a good way.
I don’t know if this film will resonate with a mass audience given its style and the nature of its story, but I feel that it deserves its place to be seen by as many people as possible. “You Were Never Really Here” does demand a level of patience of its audience to get its message across, but believe me: it’s totally worth it.