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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 12.08.17] thriller drama

Alex Pettyfer has never struck me as a serious actor. His resume, which includes mediocre turns in movies where he's the lead but far from the most interesting person on screen, hasn't suggested much beyond a pretty face though a turn with Steven Soderbergh in Magic Mike looked promising, his performance was somewhat lost among a gluttony of other, more memorable performances.

When Pettyfer emerged in a mysterious trailer for Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein's The Strange Ones, I wasn't sure what to think but one this is certain: with his latest film, Pettyfer suggests that there may be more to him than just a pretty face.

Pettyfer and James Freedson-Jackson star as Nick and Sam respectively, companions - though everyone assumes the pair are brothers - on a long roadtrip through it's clear that something strange is going on. The pair seem to be on a trip with no destination and a series of text messages early on suggest that Sam may not be on this trip of his own volition. As the pair continue on their travels and the more insight we get into their relationship, the clearer it becomes that something's not right though Radcliff and Wolkstein never fully reveal exactly what's going on.

The Strange Ones is chalk full of mysteries. Are Sam and Nick brothers? Are they running from something and if yes, who or what? The movie hints at answers throughout but doesn't provide any clear answers until quite late in the final act and even then Sam's memories are foggy and confused and it's not clear if he's remembering what actually happened or if he's remembering a hybrid of truth and fiction.

If straightforward thriller is what you're looking for, you won't find it here. The Strange Ones has serious arthouse sensibilities with its oddball editing which cuts present and past indiscriminately. It's sometimes confusing but that confusion feels purposeful, as if the directors want to disorient the audience just as Sam is disoriented.

Radcliff, Wolkstein and cinematographer Todd Banhazl create an almost dreamlike mood with the movie's visuals, occasionally broken by a close-up that effectively doubles as a wake-up call. It's an intense experience which, matched with the score, makes for an unsettling experience.

It's not for everyone but those who appreciate experiencing a movie are bound to love The Strange Ones which matches a unique approach to storytelling with a compelling tale of lost innocence. Combined with outstanding performances, particularly from Freedson-Jackson who, nearly single handedly, carries the last half of the movie, The Strange Ones is one of 2017's hidden gems.

The Strange Ones is now available on DirectTV with a theatrical release to follow on January 5, 2018.

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MovieStationNet (3 years ago) Reply

The acting by Alex Pettyfer was mysterious and nerve-wracking. Trying to figure out the ambiguity of these two was mind-boggling. James Freedson-Jackson makes evil manipulation look easy. Great acting from both actors and an absolute mind-bending journey.

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