Movie Reviews

It’ll Hold Your Attention Hostage | “Windfall” (2022) Netflix Movie Review

Small, intimate character dramas with a cast of 2-3 actors, a great script, and a small handful of locations — if not one location — can work out brilliantly, and they have for Netflix in the past, most notably with 2019’s “Marriage Story”, and for the most part, last year’s “Malcolm & Marie.” However, they live or die by the performances of their small cast and the material they’re given.

Charlie McDowell’s “Windfall” is another such film, starring Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins as a wealthy CEO and his wife who arrive at their seldom-used vacation home in the mountains, right as an unnamed intruder (Jason Segel) is about to leave it. Caught, he has no choice but to hold them at gun point, demanding cash before he’s on his way. Before he does, however, he notices that he is caught on camera, and returns, realizing that he requires more money if he is going to be able to start a new life for himself with his face known. The couple agree to give him half a million dollars, but it won’t be able to arrive at the home until afternoon the next day, and most of the film centers around the awkward interactions between the three during the prolonged hostage situation.

From left: Jason Segel as the robber, Lily Collins as the wife and Jesse Plemons as the CEO.

We never learn much about the robber other than his blatant distaste for the CEO, but we learn a lot about the other two. The CEO got rich by creating an algorithm that has made the world worse and has destroyed a lot of jobs. His “innovation” is left purposefully vague so he can serve as a stand-in for any exploitative billionaire. He also has a big mouth, voicing his unsolicited opinion on any subject, and tries to double cross the robber every chance he gets, which nearly gets him and his wife killed. He has such a large disconnect from reality that he doesn’t fully understand how he should be acting during the hostage situation.

The wife is a humanitarian, and heads the CEO’s charity foundations. She takes herself very seriously and claims to be qualified for her roles, but she is aware that her opportunities only exist because of who she is married to. The two have very different opinions on the role of charitable giving, welfare and aid, with the husband seeing the plights of the poor and needy as frivolous and easy to overcome, and he sees anyone who needs help as lazy and entitled, whereas his wife’s views are the polar opposite. Throughout the day and a half that the film takes place, we watch as their relationship slowly disintegrates, as the CEO’s selfish gambles and views drive a wedge between them. The robber is keen to ask questions to both of them to pass the time and perhaps understand them, but he almost never repays the favor to their inquiries.

A lovely stroll

Plemons is absolutely insufferable as the CEO, and his performance is such a vital part of the film, as his character’s arrogance creates most of the conflict in the film. Collins has moments where she shines, particularly when the veneer of happiness her character has is finally knocked down and we get to know how she really feels about her husband.

The robber is the most cool-headed character in the film, and Segel does a great job at bringing him to life. You really get the sense that he didn’t intend to rob the house at all — he admits he was initially there because he thought he knew no one would be home, and he just wanted to see how they lived. However, once caught, he has no other choice than to rob the couple, but he doesn’t want to hurt anyone.

This film has some fantastic cinematography, with each shot feeling painstakingly planned out and deliberate, and the film has a great score that feels like it’s from Golden Age Hollywood. Combined with its strong performances and compelling scenario, and this is a film that’s really hard to look away from — it holds your attention hostage, though it does stumble in its final minutes.

“Windfall” (2022) gets an 8/10

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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