Unless you were around one of the twenty four theaters this film opened in, chances are you’ll have never heard of it. The Square is another one of those films that came and went with little excitement, although those that saw it seemed to love it—so much so that for awhile it held a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes (it currently resides at a very respectable 86%). The cover tells very little (except making it look like Ralph Fiennes is in the movie, even though that’s actually David Smith on the cover) about the film and in fact makes it look like another direct to video film that wasn’t good enough for mass release—thankfully that is not the case with this one.
A stylish, twist-filled film noir, THE SQUARE centers on an adulterous couple whose scheming leads to arson, blackmail and murder. Escaping the monotony of a loveless marriage, Raymond Yale becomes entangled in an affair with the beautiful and troubled Carla. Ray’s moral limits are tested when Carla presents him with the proceeds of her controlling husband’s latest crime. This is their chance: Take the money and run… If only it were that simple. The seed is planted and Ray, fearing he will lose his love, engineers the plan. Hiring the professional arsonist Billy becomes a fatal error, and the plan goes horribly wrong. Alarm bells sound and suspicions are raised but, miraculously, the dust looks to settle. After all… Nobody knows. Then the first blackmail note arrives.
The packaging and reviews on line seem to focus more on how positive it’s reviews have been (like I have been) than dialing in on what makes this film so great. Admittedly it’s kind of just a copycat when you compare it to other thrillers that have come before it but The Square pulls it off so effectively that even when it reminds you of another film it doesn’t ultimately matter. It also helps that this entire cast is filled with people I’ve never seen before so I’m not immediately jumping to conclusions about the story because I can’t peg the actors down to a specific archetype that they play.
Strictly speaking the film does deliver quite a few cheap “what a twist!” type turns which border on laughable at times. The key element here is that it does just border on it. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up and go “oh come on!” but not enough to turn you off of the film. It’s a very fine line to skate when you make your film pretty much depend on a series of plot twists to progress through it, but it amazingly just flat out works here. In addition it kind of amazed me how little I cared about what the actual plot of the film was (which is a reason, aside from the synopsis above, I haven’t even really talked about it yet) simply because the way it weaved itself about meant it didn’t matter. What you thought you knew was going on changes and for that reason alone it keeps you on the edge of your seat.
I’m not sure if this film would hold up on repeat viewings once you know all the twists of it, but the initial viewing is probably one of the most thrilling sit-downs you’ll have in front of your TV for a long time to come. The characters are questionable at times, but truth be told any shortcomings this film has are overshadowed by just how enjoyable it is to watch. Definitely a Recommendedtitle.
Sony releases The Square in single disc Elite Blu-ray case without any fancy frills about it. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and…well, that’s it. No digital or PSP copies of the film, just the single Blu-ray disc and that’s it. The AVC encoded presentation accurately portrays the films dark and dank visual style, which means that you don’t get a whole lot of brilliant visuals to lay your eyes on—but it does mean that any piece of lighting that makes it onto the frame illuminates the content in such a way that makes you truly appreciate the Blu-ray format. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is another key to my enjoyment of the film as it’s a very robust and active sound mix from start to finish. It does seem like it overcompensates for the audio at times, but it does add another level of excitement to the whole thing so it’s hard to fault it for pushing you even closer to the edge.
Inside The Square (29:36)
Scene Deconstruction (5:16)
Deleted Scenes (24:57)
Short Film: Spider (9:34)
“Sand” Music Video By Jessica Chapnik (3:58)
The extras aren’t quite as plentiful as they could’ve been, but it’s still an adequate dosage of them. The deleted scenes are especially interesting and make me wish that there would’ve been a director’s cut of the film to integrate some of them back in (assuming director Nash Edgerton wanted to, anyway). The remaining extras are worth checking out if you enjoyed the film, although be forewarned they’re all in standard definition.
Overall a Recommended disc.
The Square arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on August 24th.