Movie Review: The Accountant

Autism is getting much more attention than it did when my Baby Boomer aunt (who, like Ben Affleck in “The Accountant” has it) was a child, but it still has yet to yield many of its secrets. There’s heated controversy over what exactly causes it, and some believe, like a character in the film, that perhaps it’s not that people with the condition are incapable of communicating – rather it’s that we have yet to figure out the right way to listen. As a child, Young Ben baffles his parents with his hypersensitivity to various stimuli, but when they take him to a specialist, he provides cautiously optimistic news – that it’s possible to help the boy lead a full life. When the father presses him on whether this will be a “normal,” one, the guy comes back with, “What’s normal?” He has a point, and Ben’s upbringing – as an army brat whose father schools him in martial arts for self-defense – turns out to be ideal for his adult career. However, Ben isn’t exactly destined to lead an uneventful life. “You’re different,” his dad says bluntly to his son at one point. “And sooner or later, different scares people.”

Eventually, Ben matures and becomes the accountant of the movie title. We first properly meet him (as opposed to a shadowy silhouette in the opening scene) when he’s interviewing an elderly couple in a strip mall housed firm and helping them with tax deductions. The couple then invites Ben to come fishing on their property; he solemnly tells them he prefers shooting, which they are also fine with and which becomes integral to the plot later on. Soon it turns out that this is just a cover and that Ben is, in fact, a forensic accountant which involves a lot more risk, secrecy and yes, self-defense with the shady characters he comes across.

His next job is investigating the finances of a robotics company, and this is where he meets a fellow accountant (Anna Kendrick). Together the two solve their assigned mystery, but after the death of its executive, Ben is drawn into a complex tangle of crime, some of it professional, some of it with ties to his family. This involves things like “cooking the books,” and “money laundering,” processes that sound quaint and homey, but in actuality result in lots of people dying in multiple shootouts. Meanwhile a Treasury Department bigwig (J.K. Simmons) enlists/blackmails a colleague (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to investigate into Ben’s doings. Shortly thereafter, as the description for the Internet Movie Database puts it, “the body count begins to rise,” which is the same as saying the Titanic sustained some water damage.

Ben is fairly successful portraying a man who, as he tells Anna, has trouble connecting with people, although he wants to. (The part where he’s doing financial calculations may give the viewer “Good Will Hunting” flashbacks.) Anna and J.K. are, as usual, reliably good. For such a violent film, it turns unexpectedly philosophical at the very end, articulating some good questions about autism and those who must navigate it.  This movie clearly wants to be both entertaining and thought-provoking, and for the most part, it succeeds.

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