Tom dePerto’s review published on Letterboxd:
Every year, there are hundreds of competent films released. "Competent" isn't really a compliment anymore - even the most ordinary and insipid films are often technically competent. After all, it isn't hard to find a film that entertains us and evaporates from our mind the second it's over, and it mean it's not well-shot or well-directed. It's kind of hard for an incompetent film to get enough visibility to escape the Walmart discount bin. It's even very common to see excellent films get released. But it's really rare to see a first shot of a film and go "this is it, the film of the year" without losing its magic halfway through the runtime. But this is it. From the first shot where Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe stand beside each other, silent while the camera faces them, I knew this was the one. And I only get this feeling once a year, every year.
I won't go into detail like I feel I should. I'll only say that this is the first A24-ish horror thriller that doesn't make me want to deconstruct it to the core. The true magic of The Lighthouse is that you don't understand it, even if you think you do. There are at least two realities within this narrative, and you never know which one you're watching. I've come up with at least six theories about what it all means since I saw it, and the most exciting thing about it is that none of them feel objective.
Eggers creates a crescendo in tension that is absolutely unnerving. The production design elevates the terror, and some of the most powerful shots in the film feel like museum paintings in motion - most of his subjective imagery is tied to ancient mythology, which I love. Every sip of alcohol that these characters swallow hits like a shot full of paranoia straight to the nervous system.
Pattinson really looks like he's shitfaced (which matches the reports that he almost blacked out on set), which I feel like is something actors playing drunk people often don't - his performance feels both like a brag stunt about method acting and a true psychotic breakdown. Maybe his best performance thus far. Dafoe, on the other hand, easily delivers one of the best performances of the year, without resorting to method.