Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Sharper ★★★★



Directed: Benjamin Caron

Cast: Sebastian Stan, Julianne Moore, John Lithgow, Justice Smith, Briana Middleton

Released: 17th February 2023 (Apple TV+)

Apple TV has rolled out an impressive set of film & TV projects in recent years across several genres, of course winning Best Picture with Coda. The latest film on the platform is Sharper, a feature-length debut from Benjamin Caron, who has been behind an array of successful TV projects, including Andor, The Crown and Wallander. Sharper is a throwback to mystery films of years gone by, recalling some of Hitchcock and Steven Soderbergh’s work as we delve into the murky world of New York con artists trying to one-up the super-rich. It’s told in a non-linear fashion and boats some notable cast members, including Sebastian Stan, Julianne Moore, Justice Smith and John Lithgow.

What connects conman Max to billionaire Richard Hobbes and his son Tom and how does Briana Middleton’s Sandra fit into it? These questions form the film’s central narrative, and it is fascinating to watch as Caron slowly peels back the layers and shows how the various puzzle pieces fit together and who will come out on top.

Caron shows that he can breach the gap between film and TV and has directed some of Sherlock, he offers an eye for a twist, perhaps delivering a few too many, but the joy in Sharper is working out how the various strands overlap and which direction it will head into next.  

One of the film’s most significant assets is its cast, Sebastian Stan, again showing his ability away from the MCU, building on his work in Fresh and sharing fine chemistry with Julianne Moore. His Max is charismatic and seductive but also intensely unlikable, and he sells all the required qualities. At the same time, Moore has to play several roles as a doting wife to Lithgow’s billionaire Richard Hobbes while also trying to sell the con she is trying to pull off. If the narrative can be a tad too ambitious, the cast keeps the film grounded and constantly watchable.

Keeping the small film scale allows it to feel more intimate and for us to get a feel for each of the characters and their motives; breaking it down into chapters focused on each’s background and the non-linear narrative helps to keep the audience guessing. This could easily have been a larger ensemble piece showing a more comprehensive criminal organisation but keeping Max primarily as a lone wolf works in its favour.

Sharper is an intelligent, fast-paced thriller that makes the most of its star-studded cast and unorthodox narrative structure, it marks Benjamin Caron as a name to look out for, building on his impressive number of TV projects and it will be intriguing to see how he follows this with his next feature. The cast makes up for the shortcomings if it is a tad derivative in places. If it’s missing an ingredient that made some of Hitchcock or Soderbergh’s crime and mystery films so diverting, it is still an impressive debut that shows signs of promise, if falling short of greatness.

Just For You