Pascal Laugier returns with his follow up to 2008 show stopper ‘Martyrs’ to remind us that no one is safe at any age in ‘The Tall Man’.
Taking the lead from his countryman Xavier Gens (The Divide), Laugier follows suit and ensures that his follow up doesn’t fall into the ‘not as good as the last movie’ trap by switching genrescreating a movie which is far less visceral than ‘Martyrs’ but no less poignant.
‘The Tall Man’ is set in a remote town in Washington State called Cold Rock. In Cold Rock times are hard. The mine has shut down, people are leaving and the high street is struggling to remain open; but as the artistically shot opener informs us, this is the least of the town’s worries. In Cold Rock the children go missing, taken by a mysterious figure known only as the Tall Man. We follow the story of the town’s authorities as they try to put an end to the kidnaping once and for all.
Quite literally, to say any more would risk revealing some of the many clever plot twists throughout the movies story. In fact, this movie is all about story and to say it is gripping is a phrase, over used but so apt here. To help propel the story forward a colourful range of characters, all easily identifiable, but still with an edge of absurdity about them, are acted with conviction. Once again the French maestro manages to bring to life characters which represent all the negatives of the human condition. This movie is nowhere near the level of intensity of ‘Martyrs’ in what you see, but once again, and within minutes of watching, you are forced to deal with child abuse, spousal abuse and the horror of having your child go missing; this movie might be set in the states but there is no evidence of the American Dream in this town.
Of course, those who have been keeping up with the recent rise of French extreme cinema know that these directors know exactly what they are doing, and in ‘The Tall Man’ the attention to detail helps maintain an atmosphere which is as disheartening as it is suspenseful. The shots of the town are frequently shown in the mist, or at night, with the weather worsening as the plot develops in a quite obvious but effective use of pathetic fallacy. When the town is shown in the daylight it portrays not only a town which is rundown, but the use of derelict buildings and rusting metal show a rot which will ultimately consume. The atmosphere simply doesn’t let up.
Swift storytelling and thoughtful set pieces keep the pace of the movie quick and despite several reveals ‘The Tall Man’ maintains its mystery right until the very end of the movie. I have been literally desperate to watch a movie like this for so long. The climax of the movie is worth every minute getting to it, and again, being so careful so as not to give anything away, it is yet another movie which leaves you questioning your own ethics and views against a cold moral standpoint; high art indeed.
Overall ‘The Tall Man’ is a movie which will be enjoyed by a range of audiences. Fans of Laugier’s other works will enjoy the emotional impact of his pieces whereas fans of suspense-thrillers in general will enjoy the tightly woven storytelling. Either way, we are all winners. I recommend you try to resist reading other reviews or trailers and watch this movie as I did, without any preconceptions of any more than a synopsis.