What a ride!
This had it all – stellar lead performances, an unreal score, incredible cinematography, a simple yet captivating storyline and that inexplicable allure that comes when a film doesn’t follow the conventional ebbs and flows of a more mainstream crime drama. I was physically sitting on the edge of my seat for the entire run time of Benny and Josh Safdie’s “Good Time”, and genuinely rattled by what is a truly exciting, raw, gritty, haunting and piercingly unique crime thriller.
The film opens in a psychologist’s office, where Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie), who is deaf and has some kind of mental disability, is being assessed through a series of tests. Before too long, his brother Connie (Robert Pattinson) interrupts the session and takes Nick with him to rob a bank. Needless to say, the robbery doesn’t go as planned and the Nikas brothers’ already dangerous and precarious lives spiral quickly out of control.
Like I said, this is a simple story but it’s perfect for what the Safdie brothers are going for. I’ve never been a huge fan of Robert Pattison but he was unbelievable in this; Connie is desperate and ruthless, and Pattison brings a beautiful duality to his character where you can see the childlike fear and uncertainty beneath his street wise and gritty mask. Connie is driven not by greed or malice, but by a primal desire to survive and for love of his brother and for them both to evade total submission into the world which has betrayed them. Benny Safdie as Nick is more of a supporting role here, and he does well. There are definite elements of the relationship between George and Lennie from John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” in Connie and Nick, and it definitely makes it easier to sympathise and find the humanity in Connie than if he had been operating solo.
What the film manages to do beautifully is take scenarios which wouldn’t usually scare us or make our hearts race as an audience and remind us of how we would be feeling if those things were to actually happen to us. Car chases and robberies and drug deals are fairly standard in movies; we’ve seen all these things to such an intense and outrageous degree that we’ve in a way forgotten that they’d actually be pretty scary if we were to experience them ourselves. The bleak lighting, jarring camerawork, cutting dialogue and the fact that the story is told almost completely in real time totally immerses the audience in the lives of the brothers and our response to what happens isn’t as somebody sitting safe and snug in their living room but as those terrified boys themselves. The film’s point of perspective jumps around a bit as well, which is a technique that I really enjoy if its done properly, and the Safdie brothers execute it sensationally well.
I don’t have much of a background in music composition and don’t usually notice the score in films unless it’s unusually good or unusually bad, but I feel as though I have to make some mention of the music here. The score in “Good Time” was phenomenal, emanating an eerie, hair raising, “Blade Runner-esque” and almost sci-fi sense of suspense through the use of synthesisers (I’m not actually sure what these are) and screechingly intense violins.
I loved this movie. It was so wonderfully different, brutal and enthralling and I’m actually keen to read up on what else the Safdies have done and if they’re working on anything now. This was brought together with pinpoint precision and with an undeniable flair for filmmaking, so much so that “Good Time” left me completely breathless and viscerally moved.
By Jock Lehman