Surveillance is one of those smash-and-grab thrillers capturing your attention from the first minute. It opens with a brutal murder and then focuses on two FBI agents trying to figure out what’s going on here. As it turns out, there’s been a series of murders in this small rural town in the middle of Nebraska. The general atmosphere and camera work are a cross between the Coen Brothers and David Lynch. This is not surprising because the director is Jennifer Lynch, David’s daughter. However, her style is more modern and streamlined while keeping its subversive and insidious nature.
Just think of movies like Blue Velvet and Lost Highway, also starring Bill Pullman. Surveillance is also a movie that will make time fly. The pacing is solid and the running time of just over ninety minutes short. Jennifer has a way of placing you there, inside of the scene and making you feel like you’re a voyeur watching this all unfold. The characters are developed naturally and deliberately with a huge dose of realism. The small-town cops are excited to see big-shot FBI agents while their boss is a little less enthusiastic. These very human reactions help you immerse yourself in the story.
And once you do, there’s no going back. European superstar Julia Ormond and none other than the president of the United States, Mr. Bill Pullman did a terrific job. Surveillance is an utterly unpredictable thriller and this generates a lot of tension in the atmosphere. You just don’t know when the shit is going to go down. So, every scene feels like it matters, just like in the Coen Brothers movies. And I love the bright, vivid, and saturated colors here. They contrast the grim nature of the events we’re about to witness.
FBI agents Hallaway and Anderson are in quite the pickle. There’s a serial killer on the loose and to make matters worse, this killer is pretty smart. He’s jumping states and proving extremely difficult to catch. The seasoned detectives are not the ones to quit so they push on with that FBI determination. Their quest leads them to rural Nebraska, where three witnesses survived the meeting with the killer, but they will provide a strange account of the murders that our detectives will have to figure out…
I know a lot of you are expecting some really weird thriller with talking cockroaches and strange plot twists, but Surveillance is not a movie directed by David, but by Jennifer Lynch. This is a traditional movie that has a couple of layers that await those who want to dig deeper. This is perhaps even harder to accomplish, a mainstream movie that’s fucked up just the right amount. Apart from some really nerve-wracking scenes and a bit of horror, we can also have a few laughs. We will enjoy the dark humor in the familiar environment of FBI agents, mysterious murders, and wobbly witnesses.
And all that we will be wondering and trying to figure out who the killer is. Now, that’s what I call a great movie. It reminds me of Unthinkable and Under Suspicion, two excellent movies also featuring a lot of interrogation scenes. Or better yet, A Pure Formality, Romanski’s masterpiece featuring an eerie atmosphere and almost the same structure.
Director: Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Cast: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, French Stewart
Fun Stuff: According to Jennifer Chambers Lynch, the film was originally about witches.