In several of the scenes of the film Small detailsby John Lee Hancock, the camera observes Denzel Washington’s character with haunting attention. Not only does he contemplate you, he also seems to intend to analyze what happens under the impassive mask of his face.
Perhaps for that reason, the film has a certain air of The silence of the inocents (1991) in which Jonathan Demme made brilliant use of his close-ups very close to create a terrifying atmosphere. Hancock doesn’t have Demme’s capacity for invisible tension. But he manages, to the best of his ability, to create an unbreathable tension in several of the highest moments of his movie.
For better or for worse, the slow and careful style of the now classic suspense thrillers returned to commercial cinema. Small details, with his palette of gray tones, the coldness of his speech and the way of facing violence is a return to a calculated and precise type of cinema. The same way that The Bone Collector (1999), the script – also signed by the director – has a deep interest in exploring the idea of evil as something more than an uncontrollable impulse.
A movie from the 90s, but in 2021
In the rigid and severe environment of the film, fear and the connotation of violence are sustained through the gaze of the other. They are all suspects amid the careful web of fingerprints the plot creates, In a cheating look at guilt Who are we when no one is looking at us? What little mistakes do we make when we try to hide our unspeakable horrors? The film plays on the premise of two relentless forces about to collide and it is perhaps that feeling of the inevitable, which prevents Small details decay in its rarefied atmosphere and old-fashioned air.
In fact, the whole story has a strange archaic feel to it that could be due to the script being written in the mid-nineties. Denzel Washington, in fact, repeats several of his most memorable roles in the genre during the decade. This time around, his character is once again a disgraced creature of the shadows. Joe Deacon at one point in his past was a police officer of considerable renown. Known for his uncanny ability to analyze details that others go unnoticed, the character of Washington is himself a cliché. But in the competent hands of the actor, the character manages to be more complex and strange than might be supposed.
With a more than casual resemblance to the Lincoln Rhyme of The Bone Collector, Washington creates a version of the brilliant loser that is not surprising, but strong enough to be credible. The actor sums up a certain plot tension that unites not only the long pessimistic silences of the argumentbut the sense of loss that sustains its background. Deacon lost hope and also, the notion about justice. Both things make the ex-cop a great cynic with an amazing talent that he hides as best he can. However, despite whatever happened in Los Angeles – the film keeps its secrets carefully – there is something certain: it is the only man capable of solving a crime that baffles by its unpredictable and violent quality.
The extremes that fail
The film – set in the 1990s – has a penchant for using its historical context as a way to advance a complex plot. In fact, references to the serial killer Richard Ramirez are frequent. Little by little, the script makes it clear that for Hancock the reign of terror of the so-called Night Stalker is a continuous reference and necessary to understand its history. It is enough to provide Deacon with a credible background story that includes the frustration of an unsolved case, a divorce and a health problem that prematurely ended his career.
Undoubtedly, the resource of the talented official who abandons what he does best because of circumstances that exceed him is trite and even tedious. But the film finds a way to show a renewed dimension about the topic. The Deacon of Washington is not in confrontation with power, with authority, much less his past. On the verge of marginalization, the character is a mystery among many others.
Perhaps one of the mistakes of the film is paying so much interest and attention to a complex character like Deacon. In contrast, his replacement and antagonist Jim Baxter (Rami Malek) lacks punch. The comparison is inevitable. The film encounters the uncomfortable need to deal with the fact that both characters are extremes of the same thing. However, there is no counterweight between the two nor do they complement each other. Washington maintains a fierce internal dialogue with the miseries and anguish of his character.
On the other end of the spectrum, Malek has real trouble keeping up with Washington’s powerful pace. As if they were a twisted version of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, the duo of policemen debate and confront each other, but fail to be on the same level as a regrettable dialogue about the reasons for evil and violence.
In addition, the film must face that its villain is a unique combination of fragility, ambiguity and manipulation. Albert Sparma is the prime suspect in the crimes, and also a crossroads for the police. Character it’s a combination between the strange vision of pop culture about Richard Ramirez and something fuzzier that the actor can’t quite show.
‘Small details’: more good than bad
Is it his quality for cruelty, hidden under a devious and sinuous version of fear? Or a large-scale cat and mouse game? The Oscar winner awkwardly maneuvers between the highs and lows of his character, who may or may not be a murderer. And he does it, moreover, in the middle of an unnecessary moral debate about the act of killing. Leto tries to bring substance to a man who is a remote and strange threat. But it fails build a bridge that allows suspicion about him to be credible.
Small details it has higher than low moments. In fact, his script is clever enough to make the plot work, even though it doesn’t quite create the tension it promises. Even so, this mirror dance between two men in hunting a dangerous nocturnal creature, ends up being a rare take on the classic suspense thriller. In the end, the mystery of death and Hancock’s version of violence ends up having the unique substance of a sinister legacy.
A storyline that ends in an exciting third installment, although lackluster after the rarefied atmosphere that until then managed to maintain the argument. All in all, the film is a good tribute to a type of cinema that already has the tessitura of the classic. And he does it with good taste and elegance, which is already appreciated.