The 90s brought with it a slew of fantastic thrillers that kept you guessing right until the end. The latest Apple TV+ movie ‘Sharper’ takes its cue from that brilliant era of storytelling, providing a very enjoyable and involving crime drama. Packed full of star-power and looking gorgeous in every frame, ‘Sharper’ delivers a taut thriller that seasoned viewers will most likely suss out early on, but that doesn’t distract from the journey itself.
I won’t go into too much detail with the plot because these types of films work best when going in cold, so this is a spoiler-free review. Today’s audiences are denied a great motion picture experience a lot of the time, mainly because of the media blitz that bombards us from all angles. We join this story as a young independent bookstore owner named Tom (Justice Smith) meets a college student named Sandra (Briana Middleton) in New York City. They soon hit it off and start a relationship, however something from her past threatens to derail their lives. Elsewhere, Madeline (Julianne Moore) is in love with business magnate Richard Hobbes (John Lithgow), but her drug-addicted son Max (Sebastian Stan) arrives on the scene ready to cause trouble.
That’s all the set-up you really need to know about ‘Sharper’, and you’ll enjoy the ride a lot more not reading up on it. As the story progresses, the characters really shine and that’s where the film’s amazing ensemble really come into their own. Sebastian Stan is brilliant as Max, a shady but charismatic man that you can’t read. It’s nice to see Stan, having come just off a multi-year run in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, come back to indie-style roles. He was excellent in ‘Pam and Tommy’ last year and follows this up with a very impressive turn in ‘Sharper’.
Justice Smith continues to add to his already-impressive CV that already offers a broad spectrum of roles to highlight his talents. Smith is very much the viewers point-of-view, and as he navigates the twists and turns of the plot, you are transported right into his mindset. Screen legend John Lithgow never puts a foot wrong, and he continues that trend here, playing a super-rich and powerful man with an ease of flow that engrosses the viewer.
The film hinges on two sensational leading turns from Julianne Moore and Briana Middleton. Moore is always the best thing in everything she’s in and has been a talent to trust in Hollywood for decades. She is captivating onscreen as Madeline and carries a lot of the big set-pieces with gravitas and composure. Briana Middleton is a sensational new talent that grabs your attention the second she appears onscreen. The role she plays in ‘Sharper’ demands a lot from her performance (again, no spoilers), and she handles the huge weight of the film with a grace and poise far beyond her years.
All Apple TV+ movies are gorgeous to look at. They are well made, superbly structured stories that really pride themselves on a creative eye that always delivers a wonderful viewing experience. Director Benjamin Caron (who recently delivered some sensational episodes of the ‘Star Wars’ TV series ‘Andor’) has presented us with a sumptuous looking movie from start to finish, full of cityscapes and street-level beauty that perfectly conjures up the aesthetics required to sell a New York City that’s both familiar but fresh to the viewer.
If there is a gripe with ‘Sharper’, it’s that the twist at the end isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. But that’s a minor gripe when everything surrounding this is so well manufactured. The cast are captivating and fully grab the viewer. It’s all stunning to look at, and it’s nice to see a film that harks back to 90s dramatic thrillers. You’ll most likely suss out the finale long before you’re meant to, but ‘Sharper’ still comes in as a fun and engrossing watch that delivers a great viewing experience.
Cast: Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, Justice Smith, John Lithgow, Briana Middleton Director: Benjamin Caron Writer: Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka Certificate: 15 Duration: 114 mins Released by: Apple TV+ Release date: 17th February 2023