Throughout film history, Autism has always had a niche from which it has rarely expanded. Films dealing with Autism range from an autistic character getting close to his family or finding true love, but we rarely get a film where an autistic character is a hero who fights bad guys with ease. The closest we ever got was the 2008 Thai martial arts film Chocolate and though flattering, it was an incorrect depiction of what autism is. That changes now with The Accountant an action/thriller where not only our hero is autistic but he is also a fine representation of what autism is.
The story for The Accountant is very well made. The story follows Christian Wolff, an accountant with autism who goes around the world uncooking books for some of the most dangerous organizations on Earth. Wolff is hired to look into the financial records of a robotics corporation and when he can’t let go of something he found he becomes the target of dangerous people all while being pursued by government agents. Typically thrillers can be a slippery slope for me. More often then not I find myself bored by relatively slow and uninteresting stories. I went into The Accountant excited by the prospect of an autistic hero and a potentially thrilling final act but believed I wouldn’t find the film in a whole interesting. Thankfully I was wrong. The story is very engaging from the conspiracy Wolff comes across to the government agents pursuing him and especially Wolff’s life and backstory with autism. The cloak and dagger aspect of the story is quite thrilling, though the film spends a majority of it’s time with dialogue I not only didn’t find myself bored but rather I was drawn further and further in with each passing moment. At times it can be predictable, you’ll be able to find out who the villain is before the first act is finished, but that’s not to say that the film doesn’t have it’s fair share of twists and turns some of which were so surprising that they blew my mind and left me speechless. The portrayal of autism was one of my absolute favorite aspects. The film goes into great detail of what autism is and how Wolff has grown up with it and lives. It shows how Wolff struggled as a child with his outbursts and his parents difficulty of understanding what he has. This allows us to get to know him better, showing what autism is and how far he’s come in his life. Granted it does seem to go into the territory of “people with autism being able to pick up everything and anything they learn” which makes him look more like a superhero then a person though at least it shows that he trained for years to become as good as he is. The depiction of autism is well done and it allows the film to elevate higher then it ever would have if the main character were a neural typical. Of course there are problems with the story. The government agent aspect, though fine, feels like it didn’t get enough attention in fact in that regard it feels like a lot of things were intentionally left out as if the filmmakers are planning a franchise. Lord knows I would love to see that more then anything else but it still takes a bit away from what is otherwise an exciting and well made story.
Characters for The Accountant are mixed
Christian Wolff is a fantastic character. Having Asperger’s I’ve never before seen an action hero that I could relate to until now. Wolff is shown to have numerous tics and rituals, in one scene when he’s clearly annoyed he began moving his neck around something I do very often when I’m annoyed. When a ritual can’t be completed he gets agitated something that happens to myself when my own rituals can’t be completed or done. Even the difficulty with looking people in the eye is something I have trouble with and very often I saw myself in Wolff. But there is so much more to him then tics and rituals and difficulties. Wolff is a strong and capable fighter as well as immensely intelligent when it comes to mathematics so he becomes a perfect blend of strength and intellect. Oftentimes an autistic character will prefer his or her own company and will come off seeming like a selfish robot, but Wolff admits he wants to connect with others to the best of his abilities. In one scene he goes above and beyond just to try to connect with another character. Wolff is a great character and one that will serve as a wonderful, relatable person to people who are on the spectrum.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the remaining characters. Dana Cummings, an accountant for the robotics company, mostly comes off as a waste of time and thought. Granted at times she can think on her feet very well and even has some good moments with Wolff but otherwise serves little purpose. Ray King, head of the agents who is after Wolff, has very little to do until the third act and by then he was mostly a forgettable character. The same can be said for some of our villains who are mostly forgettable and dull save for one who has a shocking and marvelous moment towards the end of the third act. The only one of these characters who served any kind of purpose was Marybeth Medina an agent blackmailed into finding Wolff. From the get go she’s sympathetic and works very hard to find Wolff. She has an important role in this film but since she’s an agent her story is mostly swept under the rug.
Acting for The Accountant is great but mostly underused
Ben Affleck gives an excellent performance as Christian Wolff. Affleck nails every aspect of autism, every single tiny detail, perfectly. From his tics and rituals to not being able to look people in the eye everything comes off as genuine and the hard work he put into his performance shows and pays off. Affleck shows great range in his role showing how Wolff is agitated or angry over something very well as well as having a splash of humor here and there.
Anna Kendrick does fine as Dana. She works well with Affleck of course but every now and again I found myself bothered by her. It isn’t her fault of course but the fault of her character who just doesn’t serve any kind of purpose to the story.
J.K. Simmons does well as Ray King. With what little he has to go on he manages to give a memorable performance with some very well done scenes.
Jon Bernthal doesn’t do much throughout the film save for acting menacing. But it’s the third act where he gives a moving and explosive performance and though brief it truly was one of the highlights of the film.
Jeffery Tambor does well but he’s in the film for so little time. He has less then five minutes of film and barely any dialogue. What we get is nice but it begs the question why waste his time if you’re not even going to use him?
Cynthia Addai-Robinson really got the short end of the stick with this film. She gives a very good performance as Medina and is engaging throughout. The problem is somehow the character of Dana Cummings took precedent over her character and only caused me to be bothered by the former even more. You could have gotten rid of Cummings and expanded on the character of Medina who is very interesting. Addai-Robinson isn’t even featured or mentioned in trailers or commercials and I’m sorry but that is just not fair to a woman who has an important role in this film and outshines some of her co-stars.
Lastly the action for The Accountant is well made. There’s very little action in the film but with such a great story it never became an issue for me. The fight choreography is well done using some variety of martial arts in very brutal fashion that has become popular these days. The gun fights are also well done and though brief are very exciting with just a hint of stylization. The cinematography and editing does go for more shaky cam and quick cuts however the film still manages to not go overboard so the action can still be made out very well. With what little we are given we still get prime action scenes and a wonderful conclusion to an already great film.
Final Thoughts: I went into The Accountant expecting to like the autistic lead and nothing else. I walked out with a strong sense of joy and euphoria that I haven’t felt from watching a movie in a long, long time. The story is thrilling and engaging with some great twists, the main character is excellent and is a good representation of what autism is while giving us a real autistic hero, some of the performances are strong and the action is well done. Some characters don’t amount to much and some acting is pretty much wasted but even so The Accountant is still a great film. If you are on the spectrum, if you have a fmaily member or a friend on the spectrum then I urge you to see this film and take everyone with you. You won’t find a more important film about autism and you’ll have a character to relate and look up to.