No Sudden Move Synopsis: In 1954 Detroit, Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) and Ronald Ruso (Benicio Del Toro) are hired to steal a document. When their heist goes horribly wrong, their search for who hired them — and for what purpose – sends them wending through all echelons of the race-torn, rapidly changing city.
In a storied career spanning three decades, director Steven Soderbergh has embraced a remarkably formless sensibility. Few can shift between stark genre changes with such ease, with the director crafting a cerebral take on the sports world (High Flying Birds), claustrophobic, iPhone-filmed horror (Unsane), and a reflective female ensemble (Let Them All Talk) in the last 5 years alone. No matter the genre, his calculated eye always feels like a proper match for whatever world he embraces.
Soderbergh’s latest No Sudden Move finds the director shifting the heist genre’s high-steaks thrills into the grimy muck of 1950’s Detroit. Imbued with potent textures and a dynamic verve, Soderbergh continues his dominant streak with one of his finest offerings to date.
Audiences are used to seeing Soderbergh operate within heist film’s bustling machinations, whether he’s extracting luxurious opulence from the Ocean’s trilogy or embracing southern-fried cheekiness with Logan Lucky. With No Sudden Move, Soderbergh repurposes his refined techniques into an entirely new connotation. His work may still zip along with his usual fervor, but under the surface lies a far more prominent reflection of the dog-eats-dog American experience.
It’s easy to gleam subtext from the film’s unique time period. 1950’s Detroit stands as a stark reflection of the country’s unjust racial and class standards, with the location’s booming automobile industry only prospering the wealthy fat cats in charge. Curt is well-aware of these broken standards, which sets the course for his hail mary play to extract revenge against his oppressive foes. Soderbergh and screenwriter Ed Solomon’s potent ideas reach full boil thanks to their eye for realistic textures. Anytime audiences expect the narrative to shift towards Hollywood pleasantries, Soderbergh subverts back to the harsh realities of our inequitable landscape (the ending is a gut punch in the best possible way).
That’s not to say No Sudden Move operates solely as a dour enterprise. Soderbergh’s direction is vivid and precise, percolating unnerving tension that crackles within each slow-burn frame. There’s no one better in the industry at crafting compelling capers, with the director utilizing swift camera movements and David Holmes’ rhythmic score to keep viewers on their toes throughout. While I can understand critics’ qualms with Soderbergh’s detached voice, to me, it’s that exact choice that allows the director to pull off his tricky narrative high-wire act (Soderbergh is a master of atmosphere and subtle character beats).
The director wisely entrusts a star-studded ensemble to bring his distinct universe to life. Don Cheadle wears Curt’s worn wisdom through a plethora of subdued techniques. In a film defined by enigmatic characters, Cheadle’s gravitating presence provides a crucial center point. Benicio Del Toro is a hoot as Curt’s wildly and borderline incompetent partner-in-crime. Brendan Fraser is nearly unrecognizable as the gruff and imposing crime boss Doug, while the other supporting players (Jon Hamm, Julia Fox, and David Harbour) catapult tertiary roles through their dynamic abilities.
No Sudden Move is an utter delight, with my only real gripe centering from audience’s inability to see Soderbergh’s magnificent work on the big screen. It’s truly awe-inspiring to see the director continually reinvent himself despite his assured status in the industry.
NO SUDDEN MOVE is now available on HBO Max.
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