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Film-maker Michael Winterbottom has always been a powerhouse of ideas and a uniquely valuable presence in the British industry – this prolific and eclectic director has taken on every kind of genre. (Maybe the nearest American equivalent is Steven Soderbergh.) Recently, he had great successes with his terrific music movie On the Road (2016), his Russell Brand documentary The Emperor’s New Clothes (2015), and The Trip, the foodie-travel comedy series with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
Now as writer-director he returns to a theme he has explored in the past: the UK’s connection with south Asia, with an interesting but ultimately disappointing drama-thriller. It has an intriguing premise and a gripping first act. But the ending fizzles when it should explode, giving us neither the twisty and suspenseful entertainment that it seemed to promise, nor the serious response to sexual politics in Pakistan that also seemed to be on offer. Yet the initial scenes are laid out with enormous elan and a tremendous flair for location work.
Dev Patel is Jay, a British guy who shows up in Pakistan as a wedding guest at an arranged marriage involving UK resident Samira (Radhika Apte). But Jay is no ordinary wedding guest. Before the ceremony, he thoughtfully looks through the three or four passports he has with him, rents cars with them under various identities, buys duct tape and also a couple of handguns.
As the action kicks off, the film is very lively, whisking us from Pakistan to India, and the relationship between the stars develops into an almost Hitchcockian romance. Yet this tacitly rests on Jay being at some level sympathetic, which involves a tonal problem that the film never really solves, because Jay appears to be a seasoned and entirely unrepentant killer.
The performances are perfectly solid and it always runs smoothly, but the film itself seems to take its leave of us with a shrug.
• The Wedding Guest is released in the UK on 19 July.
Source: The Guardian
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