“The Accountant” at first seems like “A Beautiful Mind” knock-off, but with more action. There was nothing that seemed genuinely interesting about it, if the trailers alone are anything to go by. But it’s safe to say that any prior qualms about the film were quickly eased. Between the action, drama, and suspense, “The Accountant” tells a convoluted story that could have easily fallen by the way side, but instead only gains momentum the further along it goes.
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an accountant. Plain and simple. He’s a genius with numbers and has an easier time figuring out people’s ledgers and balancing the books than he is comfortable interacting with people. This is mostly due to the fact that Wolff is a high-functioning autistic man. Except Wolff isn’t just any normal person who just happens to be good with numbers. Behind his persona of mediocrity, Wolff works as an accountant for some of the world’s most well-known criminals and dangerous organizations.
Just as Wolff is hired to balance the books for a straight-laced robotics company headed by Lamar Black (John Lithgow), Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), a consultant working for the same company, is targeted by a group of assassins headed by a man named Brax (Jon Bernthal) after finding a glitch in the ledgers. Meanwhile, Jay King (J.K. Simmons) over at the Treasure Department’s Crime Enforcement Division recruits analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to uncover the truth behind who Wolff really is; just as the body count begins getting higher and higher.
Director Gavin O’Connor (“Miracle,” “Warrior”) has a surprising thriller on his hands here. Between his directing and the well-executed script by Bill Dubuque (“The Judge”), “The Accountant” is the kind of film that sneaks up on you without any realization. While the sole focus is on Affleck’s Wolff, there are several characters and subplots taking place. None of which ever feel like they don’t belong; they also don’t disrupt the central narrative, but rather, they add to it. In fact, the film does a good job of weaving in all the supporting characters and subplots in a way where they aren’t shoehorned into the film for no reason. This buildup culminates in an explosive ending that satisfies.
“The Accountant” exploits Wolff’s neuro-developmental disorder to a certain degree, but in a way that it’s the basis for how phenomenal he is at his job. We see him struggling with it and the only big downside is that isn’t more explored. It services the plot, but it also gives us insight into Wolff’s inner workings. He’s intelligent, quick with solving puzzles, and largely closed off. Wolff is kind of like a weird vigilante-esque man who is one person by day, but functions and conducts his other nightly activities based on his own moral code. Do the ends justify his means? This isn’t always clear. Even the Department of Treasury is left to question exactly what to do with a man like him. And just as Wolff himself is a multi-dimensional character, so, too, is his fight for control and the questions of his morality and sense of justice.
“The Accountant” balances precariously on its own plot. It walks a very thin line and could have easily fallen apart, but it thankfully doesn’t. Every subplot introduced is largely given its due and the action only serves to intensify the stakes. The film builds tension and cleverly doesn’t dwell on anything for too long so that by the time the end comes around, the twist, while ultimately unsurprising, is well-earned.
Ben Affleck’s portrayal of a man with intense control issues and autism is balanced. He works well with Anna Kendrick’s well-intentioned Dana who gives the best line of the film after Wolff explains that he has trouble connecting with people. “I was trying to connect,” she says while talking about a past experience. “I think no matter how different we are, we’re all trying to do the same thing.”
The remaining supporting cast also gets plenty to do, but it’s Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Medina who deserves to be applauded for her performance. She’s fearful of her boss’ threat, intent on catching Wolff, and has to portray a lot of the a-ha moments without the benefit of interacting with anyone else in these scenes. And she does all this so well that you really feel the impact of her character’s efforts.
“The Accountant” is a high-octane thrill ride that boasts a great cast, action, suspense, and isn’t some senseless crime drama. It’s a film that, if you look at it too closely, has holes, but with a proper buildup to its finale, “The Accountant” is easily one of the year’s most memorable and entertaining films.
It's a film that, if you look at it too closely, has holes, but with a proper buildup to its finale, "The Accountant" is easily one of the year's most memorable and entertaining films.