The Beguiled ★★★★★

"There's nothing more frightening than a startled woman with a gun."

Have you ever been so strongly affected by a film that you can't find the words to convey the intensity of your feelings? So much of The Beguiled's strength comes from its impeccable screenplay and performances, but it's Coppola's direction that had me hypnotized. Her signature style is apparent, but it's elevated to a whole other level. Exterior shots of the home and the environment are woven into the narrative fabric, feeling completely purposive and productive while being visually pleasing. Every shot is so perfectly composed and paced -- the rhythm of this film is incredible. It maintains its beauty while also being palpably tense. It starts and ends exactly where it should, but I could've watched this for hours. Coppola creates an atmosphere so rich that every cut to black is a shock to the system, like being shot out of the universe.

Coppola takes an outside-in approach to characterization. She splits focus among the various leads, yet we never truly get to know any of them. We don't know their secrets or their motivations -- we're never granted access inside their minds. These women, as a natural consequence of the world they've been born in to, will never be able to live their dreams. They care for and support each other, but they are all trapped. They've learned to suppress their desires and hopes for the future, so Coppola doesn't bother to explain what they are. When the wounded soldier arrives, he toys with the women for his own gain. He asks them about their greatest desires and plays in to them, but it's all a falsehood. While some of the women allow themselves to be carried away, they ultimately understand the truth of their circumstance. This man represents a world they cannot have, and his mere presence is a threat to their way of life.

The trailers for this film give away much of its plot, but watching the film itself, I was always on the edge of my seat. I knew what would inevitably take place, but I had no context for these dramatic moments. The way they all unfold is shocking and ingenious. Even in scenes where I knew exactly what the end result would be, the tension on screen had me drowning in suspense. There's a unique thrill in waiting for the inevitable -- you know what's about to happen, but it's not happening just yet. It becomes a waiting game, and I loved having my patience tested. The humor injected throughout the film was a surprisingly welcome addition, and it did nothing to distract from the dramatic elements. In the same moment, The Beguiled had me laughing and ready to pass out. A pitch-perfect tone is just another component of this film's success.

Subtlety is an area where this film soars, and it's present in every one of the performances. The brilliant screenplay contains countless moments of betrayal, manipulation, and revelation, all of which are handled so casually. Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning give understated yet memorable performances, and Colin Farrell is so damn sexy it's frustrating. They all play well with one another and the younger, supporting cast. The women really do operate as a singular unit, as evident in the way the all pose themselves when crowded into a corner. Every line of dialogue is sharp and delivered just as well, each word carrying so much subtext. The Beguiled is a masterful film in all aspects, and no mediocre review of mine can do it justice. The slow pace and thin plot may not be enough for some, but it was everything for me. This is my favorite of the year thus far, and I welcome any film that wants to come along and change that. It's fantastic.

Rating: 95/100

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