PLOT: A man breaks into a tech billionaire’s empty vacation home, but things go sideways when the arrogant mogul and his wife arrive for a last-minute getaway.
REVIEW: Windfall has an enticingly clever premise and it’s bolstered by strong performances from its cast. The downside is that there really isn’t anyone to root for in the movie because all of the character are very morally flawed. There are no heroes to latch onto but if you want to watch nefarious characters maneuver through the film’s plot, this latest Netflix release should satisfy you.
The great majority of Windfall concerns three people, none of whom are given names. They are credited as Nobody (Jason Segel), CEO (Jesse Plemons) and Wife (Lily Collins). Nobody has broken into CEO and Wife’s vacation house, and he’s about to get away when they unexpectedly arrive. They all wind up stuck in the house together, because Nobody never intended to hurt anyone but he’s not willing to get caught, either, so he can’t let CEO and Wife leave or call the police. He’s willing to get out of there and let them go if they give him enough money. The problem is, it will take time to get hold of that much cash, even for CEO, who’s a tech billionaire. So they all have to wait, together.
To reveal more about what happens in Windfall would be a disservice to viewers. There are some surprises and what unfolds is unsettling and suspenseful and very, very tense. The film also delivers a bit on comedic moments that arise given the absurdity of the situation. Nobody is not a brilliant criminal, and there are logistics to holding people hostage that he did not anticipate when he expected to rob an unoccupied house. Often, he and CEO both seem outlandish, just a pair of buffoons of different kinds. Sometimes the comedy and the suspense collide and either mix or trade off, as they do in CEO’s lavish orange grove.
The film is directed by Charlie McDowell from a story credited to McDowell, Justin Lader and Jason Segel, with a screenplay by Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker. What they have crafted something substantial with very little. McDowell has said that the making of this film was limited due to shooting during the pandemic and that’s something that he uses to his advantage. The film features a small-cast and a limited. This is modest-scaled story that could have easily been a play and the intimacy serves the plot well. Much of the film even takes place outside, in various parts of the sprawling property CEO and Wife use for their getaways. McDowell makes good use of a wide variety of backdrops both luscious and spare, as these three people grow to feel more and more trapped in this deceivingly luxurious space.
The acting from all three key performers makes the film even more fun to watch unfold. Plemons has fun with the idea of the world-buying billionaire whose unshakable arrogance, even while he’s a hostage, is both his greates weapon and a glaringly obvious flaw. Collins plays Wife as a woman who has struggled to make her peace with being extraordinarily wealthy in return for being married to this man and it’s a struggle with which Nobody is unsympathetic. As for Segel, who has a long history of playing lovable and likable characters, brings menace to Nobody, but balances it with a measure of false bravado that suggests he doesn’t really intend anything bad to happen.
The details in Windfall are ones that all payoff in the end. It’s a stripped down thriller that proves sometimes less is more. At just 90 minutes, the film is very tight and it’s a movie that lives up to its wickedly smart premise.