Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE STRANGER (Quibi)

Well, today’s news explains a lot. My cellular service is T-Mobile and on their T-Mobile Tuesday App, every…you guessed it, Tuesday, has some cool little deals that you can tap and get, just for being a T-Mobile customer. Last Tuesday, a FREE 6 Month Subscription to Quibi was offered. Right when I saw that, I chuckled and predicted, “wow, they really must be desperate.” And yesterday, Quibi announced that they don’t have many subscribers at all, around only 77,000, and are looking to “explore strategic options” including a possible sale. Yikes. Anyway, I did take T-Mobile Tuesday up on their offer knowing that I can cancel before it renews, but let’s face it, it sounds like my free subscription won’t even last six months at this point. But I took it knowing that there was one, just one Quibi “show” that I wanted to check out ever since I saw who the filmmaker was that was making it, the two stars of it, and the subject matter: THE STRANGER. Now, the reason why I’m counting this as a movie review and not a “webisodes” one is that if you put all of these 13 episodes together, each being about 6 to 9 minutes long, you have yourself a feature length film, somewhere between an hour and 15 minutes and an hour an 47 minutes (I’d guess this is around 90-95 minutes). Since the whole story takes place over one night and all the events string together, no matter how long or short the episode, if you were to cut out the cut to black parts, you’d have a movie. And I really wish this was a movie, one that played in theaters, because I quite enjoyed it.

It’s tense, it doesn’t waste anyone’s time, it’s very enjoyable, well directed, shot, and the performances are top notch. Maika Monroe (always underrated to me even since her star turning performance in It Follows), Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, unfortunately Amazing Spider-Man 2 probably botched his career a bit), and Avan Jogia (Zombieland 2) star in what IMDB describes as: “An unassuming young rideshare driver (Monroe) is thrown into her worst nightmare when a mysterious Hollywood Hills passenger (DeHaan) enters her car.” The movie doesn’t waste any time getting into what is essentially a cat and mouse chase movie intertwined with a strong message about how our online presence make us very vulnerable. (this, The Social Network, and The Social Dilemma would make for a very interesting triple feature). Veena Sud wrote and directed all of these “webisodes” and when seeing a small preview for this I recognized her name immediately because she was the show runner on a great show that lasted several of seasons on AMC before being uncanceled twice and the last season being bought and aired on Netflix: The Killing. After that and this, I consider her already a great master of tone in dark realistic tales, because The Killing was depressing and somber as fuck, and The Stranger has a pitch perfect dreadful tension to it.

Somehow the tension never lets up and you gradually get to know about the characters back stories in realistic and unforced ways. The only complaint I have that keeps this movie/these “webisodes” from being perfect is that it has kind of the hammy, unrealistic, awkward ending. Even though some of it was set up near midway through, “they” probably shouldn’t have been brought back at the end even though it was brutal karma for one of the characters. That’s all I’ll say without getting into spoilers. The rest of it, is very solid. The film doesn’t hold any punches as no one in the cast is safe, there are some fantastic bait and switches, solid set ups with some solid pay offs, and the despair never lets up until it cuts to black on webisode 13. Maika Monroe is fantastic as the mouse and Dane DeHaan is masterful as the cat in this very tight and brisk chase. I’ve always liked both of them as actors and I wish that they’d get more projects that would showcase their talents and not have one smudge spot on their careers (Monroe’s is Independence Day 2). But the true star of this, again, is writer/director Veena Sud. I wish she’d get some big theatrical dark noir type project. She’s an incredible storyteller and filmmaker. The Stranger might be the only thing I watch with my six month free subscription to Quibi…and if it is…that’s not too shabby.

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