“Thoroughbreds” was written and directed by Cory Finley and stars Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy and Anton Yelchin. The film is about two teenagers who become friends after they bond about the idea of killing one of their step-fathers.
I didn’t know much about this movie coming in aside from the premise and the three lead members of the cast, all of which are, or were, rest in peace Yelchin, some of my favorite young actors working today. So, I came in hoping to see these three show their talents, and with a premise like this one, I also came in excited for a unique movie from a fresh new director.
Coming in, I was looking forward to the performances, and I was treated to three of the most impressive performances I have seen in a while, especially from Cooke. She somehow manages to top her turn in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” with a truly spectacular performance as the emotionless friend, Amanda, in this movie. Cooke’s delivery is consistently perfect and she is able to play her character in a way that allows for some amazing dark comedy, as well as with a hint of sadness and disparity in all the right ways.
Taylor-Joy is not far behind her, as she is terrific as Lily, bringing the much-needed emotion and passion to the film. Both of these two are amazing on their own, but the chemistry they share is what makes these performances some of my favorites in a long time. Taylor-Joy and Cooke play off each other with absolute ease and bring a mix of awkwardness and darkness into each scene that makes their conversations so compelling.
In a more supporting role, the late Yelchin shines as Tim, as he brings another layer of humor, but with a more realistic take as a man down on his luck with an abundance of confidence, and his scenes remained highlights as the film progressed.
Not since Jordan Peele has there been a directorial debut as impressive as Finley’s is here, as this is truly one of the best-directed films I can remember in years. This movie continuously has a special flair that makes it unique, and Finley completely understands how to build his characters and the story around them. Each scene slowly works together to make a compelling story, and all while bringing new ideas and themes to the common coming-of-age story.
Not only is Finley’s directing impressive, his screenplay is absolutely superb. Every bit of dialogue that comes from Cooke is a work of art, as it builds her “emotionless” character further and further, and Taylor-Joy’s more erratic, unpredictable moments are just as well-realized through her choice of words. I loved the bits of dialogue from Yelchin and his character who will be looking down from the top in five years, and even Paul Sparks, who plays a terrific dickhead stepdad, has fantastic moments when talking to Lily and his wife. Overall, this film doesn’t waste a single word, as every one of them feels to be adding another layer to the movie.
Erik Friedlander’s composition allows for some very weird, but potent points in the music, and it always feels to be adding tension or drama to the scenes instead of just existing behind them. The same can be said for Lyle Vincent’s cinematography, which brilliantly uses a load of tracking shots that are each as exquisite as the next. Vincent also creates what is sure to be one of the best scenes of 2018 late in the film using a very simple zoom, and that zoom will stick in my head for months to come.
I’m not sure if I can say enough good about “Thoroughbreds” so I’m just going to keep going. This is a film that feels different from the very first shot and meticulously paces itself from there to be constantly entertaining and always compelling. I fell in love with every character of this film and how they were crafted both on and under the surface. Dialogue is often said by more than words, and, as the final scene ended, I left with a smile on my face, knowing that I just saw a true masterpiece of filmmaking.
The pacing might be a problem for some, as some conversations in some scenes slowly build, but it wasn’t for me, so none.
“Thoroughbreds” is a special movie that perfectly captures everything that it is going for in every way imaginable. Cooke, Taylor-Joy, Yelchin and Sparks are exceptional. The plot is brilliant, the script is witty, powerful at times, hilarious in others and exceptionally tight throughout. The movie is expertly shot and composed, and every move made with the characters felt like the right one. I was simply swept off my feet by “Thoroughbreds,” and it absolutely deserves the first perfect score of 2018.
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