The Accountant

Early in The Accountant, a young Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) meticulously pieces a puzzle together.  Determined to finish what he started, the boy becomes angry when the final piece goes missing. This is emblematic of the film: While it is an intriguing mystery with well done visuals, there are pieces missing.
The Accountant follows Christian Wolff, a math savant who cooks the accounting books for a number of clients, ranging from big corporations to notorious criminals. Though diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, the reclusive Wolff does not slink away as government agencies and assassins close in on him.
To reveal more of the plot would be a disservice to a potential viewer as one of The Accountant’s strengths is its labyrinthine plot. Characters and story lines are introduced seemingly at random, but like all pieces of a puzzle, they somehow come together. The film slowly peels away layers of Wolff’s background and how it connects everyone else in just the right way, tantalizing the audience with compelling crumbs that lead to some satisfying conclusions.
The Accountant’s other strength is Ben Affleck’s performance. Some may look at his monotone performance as nothing special, but it is subtlety great. Before anything else, you should know that Christian’s portrayal is very respectful of people with Asperger’s as the man and his traits are never played for jokes. The character “tics,” like the way Christian blows on his fingers before starting certain tasks, are never overplayed.  These tics are not the character, only part of the overall character.
Affleck’s Christian is a man of few words, conveying most emotions with a look. You can see the gears turning in Christian’s head during one troubling scene and then see the pain in his eyes when he longs for something he cannot have. Much like The Accountant itself, Affleck tantalizes the audience with bits of emotion behind the cold exterior.
Director Gavin O’Connor and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey infuse the film with interesting visuals, especially whenever Christian is involved.  The filmmakers compliment Christian’s need for order with symmetrical, centered shots of the character whenever possible. This choice also makes Christian the center of attention whenever he appears.
The Accountant puts the mystery of Christian Wolff front and center, with the action taking something of a back seat. If you are looking for a wall-to-wall action film, The Accountant may not satisfy you. The film moves at a deliberate pace and works almost like a character study.
However, when the action does occur it is fast and loud. The slow pacing plays a huge role in making the action both shocking and pleasing to see. The massive sniper rifle Christian brandishes in the trailer plays a big part in that as well. There is no “shaky cam” work as well, allowing every blow and shot to hit with amazing effect.
Not everything works in The Accountant though.  While most of the pieces of the puzzle fit, there are ones that are either forced in or entirely missing. J.K. Simmons’ Treasury Agent’s connection to Christian does not make a whole lot of sense. Bringing in the young agent played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson is also puzzling and ultimately contradicts itself.
The central plot involving John Lithgow’s tech company is paper thin as well.  While it makes sense, it is nothing we haven’t seen before.  Jeffrey Tambor’s character also seems forced in, adding a wrinkle that is unnecessary in the end. His character seems to be around simply to mess with audience expectations about where The Accountant is going, but in the end it only adds confusion.
Jon Bernthal brings in some much needed outward charisma as hitman Brax. He has a small part, but makes the most of his screen time. While his connection to Christian becomes obvious pretty early, it is a cool one that is probably one of the more satisfying connections.
And finally there is Anna Kendrick as Dana, the obligatory love interest in The Accountant. She is charming mostly because Kendrick is incredibly charming no matter what role she plays. While their relationship gives the audience some genuinely bitter sweet moments, the relationship between Christian and Dana is unbelievable. The connection never feels genuine, just plot convenient.
As the film comes to its conclusion, it starts to feel rushed. There is A LOT of exposition in those final scenes as most of the mysteries surrounding Christian are revealed and the characters rush to the final confrontation. It is a jarring change from the wonderfully meticulous pace of the film’s first two acts and the film suffers as a result.  And there is a strange, unintentionally funny moment in the end that is out of place.
The Accountant only slightly satisfies with its mystery’s resolution.  However, this is a truly intriguing film. It could easily fit into the action genre, but it is also a mystery and a spy film.  O’Connor and Affleck may have failed to create a truly transcendent film, it is still a film worth checking out.
SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10