Tom Ford‘s sophomore feature film, ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ is a tense thriller with solid performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon. Adapted from Austin Wright’s 1993 novel ‘Tony and Susan’, the 2016 film’s narrative is set as a story within a story. Susan (Adams) is an art gallery owner who receives a manuscript of a novel written by her estranged ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal). The novel is titled Nocturnal Animals, apparently a reference to the name given to Susan by Edward. She reads through the manuscript, which plays out as the secondary narrative of the film.
The said story follows a man named Tony and his family, who are brutalized by a gang of three criminals while on a road trip. Tony seeks revenge with the help of a cop (Michael Shannon) after he finds out his wife and daughter have been mercilessly raped and murdered. What ensues is a series of dark and gritty events delving deep into the pathos of the characters. The novel within the film serves as a mirror of Susan’s past relationship with her ex-husband. Her current marriage with a businessman, Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer) is also on the decline.
Battling with insomnia, Susan finds refuge in the novel and reflects upon her past deeds. The modernist set-pieces of the film create a vivid space containing the psychological reverberations of the characters’ inner conflicts. Tom Ford’s design sensibilities work in tandem with the script to provide viewers a suave psychological thriller in the form of a revenge drama. The following is a list of 7 films that you must see if you are a fan of a narrative world that is equally complex and demanding to watch. You can watch most of these movies similar to ‘Nocturnal Animals’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
7. Prisoners (2013)
Helmed by Dennis Villeneuve, ‘Prisoners’ is a water-tight thriller that follows Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) as he searches for his missing daughter and her friend. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned this case wherein he undertakes an earnest effort to track the missing children. Detective Loki and Keller Dover often cross paths that put them in a conflict of opinions and methods. Driven by passion, guilt, and revenge, this film is a must-watch for its fantastic performances and superlative treatment of the characters.
6. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
Originally titled ‘El Secreto de sus Ojos,’ this Argentinian film made headlines when it was adjudged the best foreign film at the 82nd Academy Awards. The Juan Jose Campanella film is a testament to brilliant screenwriting. Using a non-linear structure, ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’ follows a judiciary employee (Ricardo Darin) and his superior (Soledad Villamil) as they investigate a case of rape and murder. 25 years later, they reminisce about the old case and discover unlikely secrets that change their disposition fundamentally. Exploring complex themes and socio-political symbolism, ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’ is a must-watch for all the cinemaholics.
5. I Saw The Devil (2010)
Directed by Kim Jee-woon, ‘I Saw the Devil’ is a dark and violent revenge drama testing the limits of film spectatorship. Kim Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) is a NIS agent on the search for his wife’s murderer, a psychopathic killer Jang Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik). The film follows their cat and mouse chase driven by the twisted desires that vengeance breeds upon. A visceral thriller, this film has some hardcore visuals exemplifying that revenge is a dish best served cold.
4. Blue Ruin (2013)
Jeremy Saulnier’s ‘Blue Ruin’ is an unassuming piece of film that grows on you after the first watch. The film follows Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) – living a scavenger’s life – as he receives the news of the release of his parents’ murderer. Evans tries to track the killer down and exact his revenge on him. This simple premise is told in an idiosyncratic way, thereby serving us a very different revenge drama that stays with you for a while. Crowdfunded, this indie film debuted as a part of the Director’s Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
3. Elle (2016)
Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Elle’ is a film with a shocking premise that follows Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) as she embarks upon a quest for the man who had sexually assaulted her. Verhoeven’s penchant for titillations creates a narrative that sways away from quintessential revenge dramas. It is an exercise in psychological ruminations that collates well with the graphic nature of vengeance. A well-made thriller, ‘Elle’ has the potential to be a polarising watch for the viewers.
2. Badlapur (2015)
Directed by Sriram Raghavan, ‘Badlapur’ is a story about Raghu (Varun Dhawan), whose wife and son are killed by robbers Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Harman (Vinay Pathak) in a bid to escape after committing a crime. Raghu, obsessed with taking vengeance, decides to hunt them down. The film contains within itself an understanding of the behavioral psychology of a person driven with revenge. ‘Badlapur’ is a gritty neo-noir film that showcases Raghavan’s skill in merging pulp aesthetics with realism. Based on Death’s Dark Abyss by Massimo Carlotto, ‘Badlapur’ is a gripping and intense watch.
1. The Skin I Live In (2011)
Pedro Almodovar‘s ‘The Skin I Live In’ is a psychological thriller that combines a gamut of elements to explore the depths of vendetta. A ravishing production reminiscent of the modernist architecture of ‘ ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ this film tells a story of a plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who devises skin graft techniques that can revolutionize the medical industry. He uses his innovation to fulfill his own twisted desires, thereby setting the premise for a film bordering horror and existential dread. A film with a motley of emotions,’ The Skin I Live In’ is an engrossing piece of cinema with ample thrills to keep you transfixed.
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