The first novelty of the film is that of a superstar reduced to the faceless normalcy of the bystander
Dear Viewer. The old-fashioned notion of cinema equates it with little other than the glamour of youth, beauty and wealth. This is what constitutes the stuff of stereotype, as if superstardom and the silver screen can only thrive in a fantasy borne of permanent perfection and are, therefore, incapable of communicating the honesty of reality. Not true! Because if we as cinemagoers can fashion a cult around the persona of an actor from the onset of his career to his best years, then let us extend the courtesy of natural progression and follow him, enjoy his craft, through the decades after. Therefore, take pleasure in that portly, shapeless, sagging, old, weary, bleary-eyed, angrily resigned man with a strange gait, because that is the latest avatar, the latest honesty, of the prolific Denzel Washington. Shocked? Don’t be. Age happens to the best of us. It’s in the script, buried somewhere between Act 1 and Act 12.
So, therefore, the first novelty of the film is that of a superstar reduced to the faceless normalcy of the bystander. This alone makes the two-odd hours wrested from a busy day worth your while.
But also spare a thought for the plot. The story is a familiar echo of its genre. Joe “Deke” Deacon is Deputy Sheriff of Kern County, a title too lofty for a non-place on the lip of the Californian desert where he appears to be consigned, in exile from the Sheriff’s Office of Los Angeles County. Ordered by his boss to drive “into town” to organize forensic evidence crucial to a conviction, Deke’s obvious reluctance to make the journey is puzzling, but then proves justified. There is no regaling of the returning hero or face after face reflecting the happiness in seeing an old colleague. Absorb yourself, instead, in the manner in which superiors and erstwhile partners and desk neighbors register their dismay on being confronted by the bogeyman. While some make no bones of their unhappiness, the failed attempts by others at a veneer of cordiality are amusing. What is the nature of the stench of the reluctant baggage that he carries? Deke would like nothing better than to collect the evidence and disappear. But bureaucracy and personal intent rarely coincide, and he must spend at least one night in a city which holds no attraction. And from this point our story takes off.
Also read: Series review: Mare of Easttown
Rami Malek, of bulbous eyes and oddly distended upper lip, is Detective Jim Baxter who, it transpires, is a young prodigy hired to fill the rather large shoes of our exile. A woman has been murdered, and young man invites old man along to have a look at the crime scene. This, for me, is a classic of cinematography, the milling of representatives of the coroner’s department, the causal and sometimes flippant attitude of policemen too often in the presence of death, the sifting through of the apartment, piecing together the story told by the trail of blood, crowned by Deacon’s epiphany when he slowly turns his gaze to the window and the building across the street. For, the grisly drama is not limited by the confines of this filthy apartment. Deke’s perspective impresses, as it should. It also excites the old demons, seeing that the mode and manner appears to be identical to a serial crime which remains unsolved on his docket.
Murder dogs the footsteps of the ace investigator, and two more women are found dead in quick succession. Obsessive, divorced, veteran of a triple bypass, ace detective with the highest clearance in the department, disgraced, cursed, walking disaster, but young man nevertheless joins uneasy hands with old man against the counsel of all.
Jared Leto is Albert Sparma, a suspect working at a repair store around the corner from the first murder. How he goads, torments, mocks. What role does he play, our man with the vacant eyes? The conversation between landlady and disgraced detective; the hunting down of material evidence in record time; the stakeout, you’ve just got to wait for your break, and it will come; a glimpse into the patient and deliberate nature of criminal psychopathy chillingly revealed at the top of the story; the anatomy of a massive cover-up – calm down, what happened? But he confessed to the murders, I know he did it. It’s the little details that matter.
Suggestive, apparently, seemingly, there are so many nuances tantalizing because they afford a glimpse into some facet and then jag back to another reality. Nobody gives the full picture. At least not till the very end. I am going to record in my report that death was due to multiple stab wounds. Multiple…what?!? But, you just fished out one single bullet from the middle of her chest, blossoming like a metal flower in full bloom.
And then truth dawns, dear viewer. It all falls into place. That crucial piece of evidence for us, horrified and enthralled, revealed right before the credits. What perfect timing!
Dear viewer, there is no satisfactory, much less happy and conclusive ending. But don’t hesitate. Dive right in.
Amazon Prime. The Little Things.