Dusty Lang’s review published on Letterboxd:
Last night something happened that only occurs when watching one of my favorite films. Utter and complete absorption. This film grabbed me within the very first frame and didn’t let go of me until the end of the credits. This film screams up at me from the abyss and haunts me with its siren call. I just love everything about it.
Dafoe gives what may be one of my favorite performances I have ever seen. His sharped mouthed soliloquys went on and on at times, but I was completely enraptured by every single word of that wonderful dialect. Whenever he would open his mouth I rose in anticipation to hear what he had to say, whether it be the funniest thing in the world or something utterly mystifying. Pattinson is a fantastic counter to Dafoe. His quiet brooding character slowly unravels throughout in the most confusing and terrifying of ways.
The writing is brilliant. Eggers is obviously a nut for research and it shows in the dialect. I missed only a few lines here and there, but it never stopped me from being utterly absorbed by the time and the place. The story is also BATSHIT insane and I love it. It manages to be wholly unsettling and claustrophobic throughout, but simultaneously is also one of the goofiest dark comedies I have seen in ages. The story and the way eggers masterfully directs this leaves the viewer with a lot of questions, and there is a lot of room for interpretation about what is going on. I came up with a theory about what is happening on a sub textual level, but on a deeper level I am trying to figure out what is actually happening in the film. currently I am not really sure, other than I loved it.
The other star of the show is the look and sound of this film. The production design level is off the charts, and its apparent how much of this they did for real (a lot of it). It must have been one hell of a shoot, but wow did it pay off. It was shot in high contrast black and white 35mm and it has to be the best looking film of the year. The high contrast photography mixed with the 1.19:1 aspect ratio gives it a uniquely vintage look, like turn of the century photography. It also just gives the film such a painterly look. There are moments where characters just emerge from the darkness, and it’s gorgeous. The soundtrack is perfect and I can still imagine most of it in my head. Along with that, the sound design is soul breaking. There are moments where the marriage of sound and the image on screen made my stomach flutter, and my neck hair stand.
Okay so I am definitely rambling at this point but holy shit, go see this film. It is a masterpiece. I might see it two more times this week.