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Review: Sharper (Apple TV+)

February 16, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The feature debut of Benjamin Caron, a TV director whose credits include Andor, The Crown and, perhaps most notably, the final episode of Sherlock, Sharper is a slick A24 and Apple TV+ thriller that keeps shifting perspectives to keep us on our toes.

The film opens with a closeup shot of gears being carefully placed inside a Swiss watch, which serves as a pretty nifty metaphor for what Caron and screenwriters Brian Gatewood and Alessandra Tanaka are trying to do. The narrative structure is the most clever thing about it, with the film’s careful assembly putting a fresh spin on a classic swindler tale.

This is a film that is best experienced knowing as little as possible, and because of its intentionally slippery nature, it’s hard to really summarize the plot. The official synopsis simply states that it is “a neo-noir thriller of secrets and lies, set amongst New York City’s bedrooms, barrooms and boardrooms. Characters compete for riches and power in a high stakes game of ambition, greed, lust and jealousy that will keep audiences guessing until the final moment.”

What I can add is that it stars Justice Smith, Julianne Moore, John Lithgow, Sebastian Stan, and Briana Middleton, as a collection of characters who occupy different parts of New York society. What makes the film so enjoyable to watch is the way that Caron keeps pulling the rug out from under us. The episodic structure, with the film broken up into chapters, allows it to keep reinventing itself, and part of the fun is the way that the film keeps revealing how the characters are connected as it goes along. Each section is almost its own story, with the fractured narrative keeping us constantly reassembling the pieces in our mind as we try to keep track of how they all fit together.

It’s a film of slick surfaces, captured by Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s steely cinematography, that keeps us entertained over the course of its nearly two hour running time. If the story feels like it might tip over into melodrama at times, it always has something more cunning up its sleeve. The last act does stretch credibility in a way that might be a bit of a deal-breaker for some, but it’s all part of the fun of this clever little bait-and-switch. The film understands that sometimes it’s fun just to be played, and while it might not amount to much more than a well-played con, it sure is enjoyable to take part in the charade.

Sharper will be available to stream exclusively on Apple TV+ as of February 17th.

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