Deception (2008)

For quite a while, I wasn’t actually sure if Deception would live up to its name and become a thriller. After it was over, I learned that it did become a thriller but didn’t live up to its name. This is a dull, predictable thriller, and only remains watchable because you hope to see it pull a fast one on you. I’m not usually for contrived and out-of-nowhere plot twists that are put in just because the filmmakers can, but if any film needed one, it was Deception. Unfortunately, that never happens.

It takes almost half the movie for the “thrilling” part of the movie to even begin. Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) is an auditor who works late at night to finish his jobs because, well, he has nothing better to do. A lawyer named Wyatt (Hugh Jackman) notices him one night, strikes up a conversation, and before you know it, they’re best buddies. They’re playing tennis together, hanging out every night, and so on. They’re polar opposites, too. Wyatt is the outgoing, party guy, while Jonathan is reserved — he’s an auditor, after all; in the movies, that means his personality has to be like this.

Wyatt goes away on business, but unfortunately — and not conveniently at all — the two switch cell phones, completely by accident, I’m sure. Turns out Wyatt is on some sort of “list” where people call one another for anonymous sex. So, Jonathan now gets a dose of that. He breaks the rules, though, when he starts getting to know one of these people on this list, “S” (Michelle Williams), and at this point we finally get something almost resembling a thriller. Almost.

It all comes down to money and certain people not being who they claim to be, and if any of this surprises you, you probably don’t watch enough movies. Right up until the end, you’ll easily follow along, never being surprised for a single second. That is, except for one shot at the end that seemed completely ridiculous. Let’s just say that if you had the chance to get away scot-free with $20 million in stolen cash, would you do so? Yeah, one character decides to not do that, which was the first and only surprise in the film.

The plot is so formulaic, yet seems to think it’s so clever. It does everything without even a hint of irony, which would have been beneficial. It telegraphs everything so easily, especially if you’ve seen any similar film, that it can’t surprise you. It needed a rewrite. It fails at a screenplay level, and then wasn’t handed to a director who has the ability to take an awful script and make a passable movie, which is unlikely to happen in the first place.

It’s not even that Deception is terrible. It’s shot well, has some solid performances, and is slickly put together. It’s just that, with this screenplay and level of predictability, it’s almost impossible to make it compelling. How can it thrill me if I’m two steps ahead of it at every turn? It needed to throw a curveball every now and then, but it failed to do so. Right up to the final twist, I was always ahead of it. As a result, I was bored. Thrillers can’t be boring. This one is.

I’m not even sure if it all makes sense. Perhaps it does, but considering how stupidly people have to act in order for the plot to function, I doubt it. Even if it does add up, it requires logical gaps by the characters for the narrative to conclude. Sure, you often have to suspend your disbelief in movies like this one, but it shouldn’t be this obvious or difficult to do so. I shouldn’t be noting as I’m watching it when characters do something so stupid or out of character, but I found myself doing it here.

It’s because I couldn’t find myself getting immersed. When I was drawn so frequently out of the movie — due to it being too stupid, easy, predictable, or any number of things, really — I found myself looking to other things to occupy my time. If I was wearing a watch, that might have been one of them. I did like looking at Deception, to be honest, and I think Dante Spinotti did a good job on the cinematography. But that’s about the best thing I have to say about it.

Well, there’s that, and there are the performances. Thanks to the charm of Hugh Jackman and the ability of Ewan McGregor, I actually found myself enjoying the movie when it was just them hanging out with one another. Before it wanted to be a thriller, when all it tried to be was a buddy film about two diametrically opposed personalities, I wasn’t having a bad time. When it started to try to hard to entertain, that’s the point when it started to cave in on itself. And once a cave-in begins, you’re not going to be able to stop it.

Deception is a by-the-numbers thriller that gets worse and worse as it tries ever so hard to stay ahead of its audience by using outdated plot points and a lack of, for failing to find a better word, deception. It doesn’t throw anything new into the mix, and while it was well-shot and decently acted, it has little to keep you entertained. The worst part is that it’s not even quite bad enough to laugh at or put you to sleep. For a thriller, it’s surprisingly boring, and it’s definitely not worth your time.

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