Ben Affleck is Christian Wolff, an autistic accountant whom we very quickly learn is involved with many, many very dangerous criminals. His story is told in great detail in The Accountant, and it is a very twisty, turny one that affects the lives of a great many people. It stretches credibility to its breaking point, but never quite causes it to snap, and for that writer Bill Dubuque and director Gavin O’Connor deserve scads of credit.
The first thing that must be talked about regarding this film is the character of Christian Wolff himself. The Accountant takes the “idiot-savant” myth of autism and somewhat exaggerates it, and somewhat turns it on its head. It gets a lot of the details of autism very right, the fact that people suffering from autism need routine, that bright lights and loud noises can cause autism sufferers physical pain, that they see patterns everywhere. We learn very early in the film that Wolff comes from a military family, and that his father insists he deal with his autism by confronting it head on, toughening up and “being a man” about his condition because the world is not going to be kind to him. So we see Wolff training with experts in all types of combat and subjecting himself to a daily regimen of extreme bright light and sound to get himself to a place where he can handle the real world. This combined with his Rain Man type genius turns him into a sort of autistic super spy. As a premise, it’s implausible, but it does conform to its own form of internal logic, and that is what’s really most important in film, and all story telling, for that matter.
The story of The Accountant also stretches plausibility as far as it can go with its many branching story arcs that rely on coincidence and on the actions of Wolff, but again, it’s handled well enough that it never goes past the point of outright absurdity. Everything we see on screen is explained at some point and brought back around to some event we were introduced to earlier. One story line in particular is handled poorly due to the fact that we are told about it through voice over and flashback rather than seeing the action first hand at a rather climactic point in the film, but as extreme and madcap as the situations get in The Accountant, it never crosses the line where our immersion is broken. It toes it, though, it toes it for its entire running length.
The performances are well handled across the board: Ben Affleck plays autistic very convincingly, never going “full retard” (I couldn’t resist), Anna Kendrick is a charming mirror image love interest to his character, and J.K. Simmons and John Lithgow in their respective roles give the fantastic performances we’ve just come to take for granted from them. It’s also good to see a couple of mostly television actors, Jon Bernthal of Walking Dead fame and Cynthia Addai-Robinson from Arrow and Spartacus, get some time on the big screen and use that time at least adequately if never stunningly.
The Accountant is absolutely a lot of fun. Is it even remotely feasible? No, but really, very few action films are and if you have an interesting premise like a man who uses a condition like autism to turn himself into a form of superhero, why the heck not take it to its extreme? This is a film where you have to be able to just enjoy the ride, because there is nothing to learn here, nothing of import to ponder, just a well crafted action thriller that aims high and never misses by going even more over the top than it knowingly wants to.
Rating: 7.0 out of 10