Whenever Jake Gyllenhaal is in a movie, I want to go see it. The man has so much talent and skill as an actor that even if the movie isn’t all that great, I’ll likely enjoy his performance. So when I realized he was going to be in this movie, I immediately decided I would watch it after I got Hardcore Henry out of the way.
Once again, Jake Gyllenhaal provides an exceptional performance. There is so much going on with how he delivers his lines, how he approaches his character, and how he executes facial expressions. I also found myself relating to this character so much as a person because he is so disconnected with his emotions. The beginning premise of the movie is that Gyllenhaal’s character experiences his wife dying in a car crash (with him being in the car at the same time), and even though he just lost his wife, he cannot bring himself to feel miserable, heartbroken, or even upset. So in search to find out how to grieve for his wife (or life) emotionally, he ends up breaking down on a mental level.
I am not exaggerating when I say this: this is how I would be as a human being if I was rich and did not believe in God. There were so many points where Gyllenhaal’s character does some sort of action and I thought, “this is me in an alternate dimension.”
Not only is Gyllenhaal’s performance great, but he plays in a movie that is extremely well constructed. There were so many subtleties in the series of events, the cinematography, and the acting, and it was just so pleasant to watch. I wish more movies were like this; I wish more actors and scripts could bring out the subtleties of performances that really bring a character to life.
This also made me feel a wide range of emotions. There was one or two scenes that were touching, and there were a couple of scenes that actually made me angry at our protagonist.
One of my pet peeves in movies is surreal, dreamlike sequences because I find them to be largely unnecessary and distracting. However, this movie somehow managed to pull those off because of the tone of the movie and the mentality of the protagonist.
Naomi Watts is also in this movie and stumbles upon Gyllenhaal soon after his wife died (for strange reasons explained in the movie). She ends up relating to him so much that they cultivate an extremely unconventional relationship. While I enjoyed Watts as an actress in this film, I felt like the movie forgets about her as a character somewhere during the second half of the movie. They end up resolving her arch in a way that is somewhat satisfactory, but it seems like once the plot stopped needing her, she began to diminish.
Watts’ character also has a 15-year-old son, played by a child actor who was honestly a decent performer. I can’t think of any scene that really demands a fantastic performance from him, but he did everything he was supposed to do well.
Demolition seems to fit in the same category that I talked about in my “I Saw the Light” review, and that category is nihilistic. Even though I was enjoying the performances, I found that Davis’s (Gyllenhaal’s character) search for answers on how and why he was feeling the way he was came up nearly empty. The film constantly hits intellectual and emotional notes for me that I thought there was going to be some grand epiphany that Davis eventually gets, but it never happens. He just experiences changes in life and never goes anywhere else farther than that. By the time he gets to where the movie plans on taking him, there is no newfound self-awareness or self-realization.
When the ending finally came for the movie, all I could think of was, “That’s it? That’s all there is?” It’s a shame that after such a solid experience, there is no true point in the grand scheme of this movie, no reason for the destruction and dysfunction.
That being said, for a nihilistic movie, it’s a pretty good one. The first and second acts of the movie are fantastic cinema, but the final act does not truly deliver any sort of payoff. If you’re looking for a good movie with good performances and good cinematography, go see it because it has both things. If you’re looking for a story that has some sort of coherent message, I would look elsewhere, and I’m giving this movie a 7 out of 10.