Ben Affleck gets to play Will Hunting and Jason Bourne in this superhero origin story for adults. He’s Christian Wolff (doesn’t that sound like it’s been someone already?), a math savant on the spectrum who’s also, thanks to some brutal – but prettily sunlit – Asian training rather handy with his fists and other bits. He runs a cheap-looking Accountancy Practice in a strip mall, but it’s really a front for laundering Big International Criminal Money. When Treasury Agent J.K. Simmons follows the money, it begins to lead to Wolff’s rather extravagant set-up.
The best thing about Gavin O’Connor’s film is its tone, which skews towards the adult, with a cool aesthetic of greys and browns and dust and calm light. The rhythm of the editing is controlled rather than frantic, the scenes breathe with characters being allowed to actually have “character moments” (watch Anna Kendrick gesture for Wolff to sit down on a couch – twice!) and the score doesn’t pummel you. The (somewhat over-the-top) all-star cast do a collective good job, with particularly nice work from Jon Bernthal as a complicated rogue for hire. And the story, although ludicrous, has an interior logic, which is what an adult thriller needs.
Affleck’s role is tricky and it’s kind of hard to criticise. Wolff is deeply inward and isolated, so most of the time he’s sullen and remote. But in scenes with Kendrick he valiantly shows a struggle to connect. I don’t know how deeply he and O’Connor took the responsibility of representing autism, but on its own merits, it works. But it’s working, as I say, in the vein of superhero-dom. Besides the insane mathbility and the incredible fist (and firearm) skills, we get a secret lair, double identities, even a shot of identical suits lined up in a closet like Batsuits. Oh, and J.K. Simmons – the meta-textuality of him playing Commissioner Gordon in the same DC universe that includes Batfleck can’t really be denied.