Review by Sean Boelman
Philip Barantini’s previous movie, Boiling Point, received critical praise for its anxiety-inducing nature, and his newest, Accused, is even more intense. An overwhelming film in many ways, Accused nonetheless succeeds at being a stressful and tense thriller with a lot of important things on its mind.
The movie follows a young man who must fight for survival after someone on the internet wrongfully identifies him as the perpetrator of a massive crime. It’s a truly nerve-wracking watch, and while some of the beats are predictable, it manages to keep viewers on the edge of their seat throughout the entire runtime.
Many films that have attempted to tackle the topic of the online “witch hunt” have done so through the angle of “cancel culture.” Accused instead opts to skewer the racism and xenophobia that so often dominates online discourse and, as a result, ends up being one of the most effective condemnations of the internet yet.
One could almost accuse the movie of being exploitative of the protagonist’s trauma by turning it into the basis for popcorn entertainment. However, it is clear that writers Barnaby Boulton and James Cummings are interested in genuinely engaging with the important questions that the film asks, even if there are no easy answers to provide.
That being said, it is nonetheless somewhat frustrating that the protagonist feels somewhat underdeveloped. Although the movie does a good enough job of making him likable, it also goes too far in its attempts to make him feel “average.” Admittedly, the point of the film is to show that even the most harmless, well-intentioned person can find themselves the victim of hate, but the character ends up feeling rather vanilla.
Chaneil Kular’s performance in the leading role is really powerful and totally gripping. Viewers might recognize him from his small supporting role in Sex Education, but the role he plays there is *extremely* different. Accused shows that he has unexpected range, as he manages to give one of the most convincingly terrified performances in this genre.
Although the movie isn’t particularly innovative in terms of how it is executed, it is pretty effective. The second and third act play out like a mostly standard home invasion thriller, only with an above average script for the genre. And Barantini is so good at directing tension that viewers will be wanting the film to be over (in a good way).
Accused is an imperfect movie, but there are a lot of things about it that work extraordinarily well. If nothing else, it’s certainly a very distressing and provocative film that will hopefully challenge viewers to reflect on their own biases and the toxicity of their online behavior.
Accused screened at the 2023 Overlook Film Festival, which ran March 30-April 2 in New Orleans, LA.