Review by Dan Skip Allen
Mystery-thrillers can be an exciting genre for most people looking for a film that takes them away from their personal lives or struggles with family, finances, or work. They can go in many different directions, but the most common is when a man or woman meets a stranger, and they proceed to have a relationship even though they shouldn't. Out of the Blue is just that type of film.
Connor Bates (Ray Nicholson), a librarian with a checkered past, is out for a run when he stops at a beach and sees a woman in a red bathing suit coming out of the water. Her name is Marilyn (Diane Kruger, Inglorious Basterds). The two start talking to one another and become close friends despite their better judgment. Marilyn has her own domestic issues that Connor can't help but be concerned by.
These types of mystery thrillers are right out of the toolbox of filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock. Neil LaBute is no stranger to this genre, having directed Lakeview Terrace and other films similar to this one. It's not easy for him to stay away from the genre's popular tropes. He leans in heavily on so many things others have done in the past that what he does in this film is nothing new.
The cast doesn't include the biggest name stars in the world. Still, there are a few names viewers might know besides Kruger, like Hank Azaria as a Probation Officer and Chase Sui Wonders (Bodies Bodies Bodies) as Kruger's character's stepdaughter. The one performance I thought was good was Marilyn Zwick's, who plays a friend of Nicholson's character. She brings a more down-to-earth feeling to this story. Viewers can probably relate to her quite a bit.
There is a backstory in this film I could relate to, and the locations of the film were also familiar to me. The film, taking place in New England, where I grew up, was a bit cathartic to me. I feel a kinship with the Connor character. He reminded me of me at this age, my late twenties. I don't know if I'd go to the lengths he'd go to for love, but it's part of the story, so I'll go with it. Even though it had a slow beginning, it eventually picked up the pace.
This film has a twist that seems a little too convenient to me. It's a contrivance that is a little too much to take, considering the direction this film was going in from the beginning. It seemed to me that LaBute looked over his script and did some edits, making it a little different than it originally was at the start. The film's twist completely turns around what was a rudimentary mystery thriller and makes it better. That is shocking to me. I had no faith in this film for most of the runtime. LaBute is more like Hitchcock than I could have imagined.
Some of the technical aspects of the film worked very well for me. The score by Adam Bosarge is fantastic. It goes along with the overall context of the film very nicely. There are also text screens that help describe the passage of time. These are terrific to show how time flows in the movie. I've never seen this before at this level of scriptwriting. LaBute is once again to thank for this as the director of the film. The production design is very good by Megan Elizabeth Bell. She captures the New England area perfectly.
Out of the Blue has so many things going for it. It's almost too good to be true, given how slowly this movie started. The twists and multiple endings are practically inconceivable. The writing and direction by LaBute are incredible. It's amazing how this film isn't on anybody's radar right now. The score by Bosarge is like butterflies and rainbows to my ears in the context of the film. The cast of mostly unknowns with a few big-name actors is very good. Still, the star of this film is LaBute, who is channeling Alfred Hitchcock. This seemed just like something he would do — he did direct Strangers on a Train, after all. This film was a pleasant surprise for me despite its occasional reliance on tropes. My advice is to take a chance on an unknown. You never know how it will turn out.
Out of the Blue hits theaters and VOD on August 26.