Sofia Coppola’s new thriller The Beguiled is one of the year’s finest—a biting slice of smart entertainment powered by a brilliant ensemble.

If you’re in the mood to be surprised, to a shocking extent that has you simultaneously squealing in laughter, and quivering in fear over an inexplicably unsettling presence, then The Beguiled is a film that you’d love to sit through. Unveiling its cinematic glory with a discomforting silence in just a short span of time, it gorgeously utilizes Coppola’s direction bred with an inherent brilliance reminiscent of his father’s iconic works, The Godfather Part I & II. She shrouds most of the film is the shadows, skillfully manipulating dim lighting to emphasize mood, which basks us, and its characters in the ambiance – creating alluring filmic composition that catches our attention just as it soothes our eyes and jars our senses with a bizarre energy. Sofia Coppola, who has directed numerous movies loved by critics, comes in to make a film unlike her other works in this atmospheric thriller. Welcoming us with Oona Laurence’s Amy meeting Colin Farrell’s John McBurney in the woods during the Civil War era, in those very minutes, a lingering sense of mystery immediately latches on to our very skin. Coppola’s ravishing filmmaking is completely apparent, as every frame gives off a discomforting vibe that tells of the setting’s nature which builds up to what it’ll become. Not long after that already haunting intro, it lines up a dominantly female cast which makes us feel as if we are staring at a portrait of women of elegance, class, and beauty.

That is until they start showing their true colors the moment Farrell’s male character reaches their doorstep. Soon enough, the film examines the vulnerabilities of their being, casting over a bit of a critical eye that pertains to their feminist personas without turning into an offensive take. Rather, it’s quite intellectual, as there’s so much to think about other than trying to analyze what’s already obvious while also being enthralled by it, for sass showers a chunk of Coppola’s screenplay, and from that, a bountiful of amazing performances are to watch out for as it gets thrown straight at your face with a bite. At the center of this feisty pack is Nicole Kidman’s Miss Farnsworth who, attracts with her subtly vicious demeanor that wins us over remarkably time after time. Right by her side is Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, whose bickering over a man only adds up to what Kidman has marvelously established. Along with Kidman, this female ensemble is strongly formed, putting in some of the most memorable performances of the year. What’s more is that, there are multiple scenes, most of which are the film’s highlights that remarkably stand out; quickly pushing themselves in to a spot or two in the list of 2017’s best movie moments. Truly, Coppola placed her bets on all the right actresses, seeing that all of them, from Kidman to Dunst, get their moments, with some even stealing the spotlight from the others (looking at you, Elle Fanning, who constantly won me over).

In witnessing all the events that unravel, one must put into mind that the film is set during the Civil War wherein men are seen as titans, and women as less of that. Prior to the arrival of Farrell’s McBurney character, they were prim and proper, but once they take him in, all of what they once were is stripped off of them, as they fall for this man’s allure. Building up themes of jealousy, envy, intrigue, desire, lust, temptation, and repression, The Beguiled sizzles, and cooks all of those to become one deliciously wicked feast of grade-A entertainment that you just couldn’t resist. You will want to anticipate what happens to these women, and how they will act in every situation that they’re pit against, and by god, the results are amusing as they could ever get. As the days go by, and the man’s stay at their abode is prolonged, they learn lessons that they, and us probably won’t forget – particularly ones that pertain to their beings as women. Eventually, after getting weakened by a man, they regain their strength after revolt becomes the consequence of lust. Sinister intent comes into the fold, and a smile that is memorable in its mischief-making becomes the last thing that leaves a mark – most specially with that final, chilling frame that fills in the brisk air. If there’s a phrase that would probably best describe this deceptively complex film is that, it’s a double-sided statement on what lies behind “feminism” – a term whose meaning is built throughout its course.

4 out of 5 stars

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