No Sudden Move

Quentin Tarantino has said he is going to stop directing after he has made ten movies. This means that, counting Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 as one film, (which he does) then he’s got one left.

Time will tell as to whether this will turn out to be true. Judging by his current form I hope it’s not but like Robert Redford and James Ivory he might stick to it. Alternatively he could go the way of people like Francis Ford Coppola and Hayao Miyazaki, who after a few years of retirement decided that they had one or two more in them.

No one has gone back on this is to the same extent as Steven Soderbergh though. Announcing he was going to stop directing for cinema after 2013’s Side Effects, he then picked up again four years later and has since given us six films with at least two more in production. He actually made Behind the Candelabra later in 2013 as well but this was done for TV and streaming so apparently it didn’t count. (This of course was when there was a clear distinction between films made of cinemas and those made for TV.)

As much as this suggests that Soderbergh’s initial decision to quit was hasty, his reasons at the time related to his boredom with conventional movie making and his films since can be seen to reinforce this concern. The work he has done post 2017 has all shaken things up a little. As a heist comedy, that year’s Logan Lucky wasn’t a million miles away from his Ocean’s films but it was funded entirely by selling the overseas distribution and international streaming rights based solely on the cast (Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver) before any of it was shot. This was unheard of and gave him total creative control. He then made Unsane which was a frighteningly feasible story of a healthy minded woman getting committed to an asylum, and High Flying Bird, a sports drama, both of which were captured completely on an iPhone. Let Them All Talk, starring Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest and Candice Bergen, was filmed during a single transatlantic cruise and The Laundromat, about the financial crisis, was a high concept, highly stylised, poor man’s version of The Big Short. Each of these movies was doing something a bit different; sometimes different for just Soderbergh but often different for everyone.

His new film, No Sudden Move may seem like his most conventional project for some while but even this has a fresh approach. The plot centres around a pair of 1950’s hoods played by Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro who get in deep when a job goes wrong. On the surface it isn’t dissimilar to other stories of intrigue set in the same era, such as L.A Confidential, Goodfellas, Shutter Island and The Talent Mr. Ripley. The film has atmosphere to spare and the performances are all great (put Del Toro’s bumbling gunman here next to the similarly employed but utterly composed and brutal character he played in Sicario for all you need to know about his versatility). Within this familiar set up though, Soderbergh manages to explore a gamut of different social themes that you wouldn’t expect in the genre, and dissects the psyche of America from that time to this.

No Sudden Move is a title that sounds like it has come straight out of the pulp crime section of any bookshop. It doesn’t just describe the cautious nature of its protagonists as they tentatively wade deeper into the murky underworld of gangsters and corporate espionage though. It also reads as a statement on the slow change in the US as it evolved toward a more progressive culture. The film examines industry, race, the justice system, class and family values without any heavy handedness whatsoever.

It’s there though and shouldn’t be ignored among the bags of money, pistols and Cadillacs. In the end Soderbergh is asking nothing of his audience beyond what he himself has done; don’t quit,shift your focus and find something new amidst the conventional.

The Ripley Factor:

This being a film about society’s failure across the last seven decades to show an understanding and appreciation for anyone other than the elite few, clearly it is a very male centred narrative. There are two key female players though; Amy Seimetz and Julia Fox, who play a wife and a girlfriend.

These are not typically the most empowered roles but here, while they are mostly secondary to the story, they do have moments of authority and action. Perhaps more subtly than in other areas, but gender roles are given some attention in the film too.

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