Dropping onto Netflix today is the home invasion thriller, Windfall. The movie – directed by Charlie McDowell – stars Jesse Plemons, Lily Collins, and Jason Segel, and follows the story of a wealthy married couple who cross paths with a thief.
In the movie, the couple arrive at their secluded holiday home, only to discover a strange man in the property. The man threatens the couple, prompting them to offer him a pay-off to leave.
After taking all the valuables in the property, the man locks the couple in the outdoor sauna and makes his getaway. But once he gets back to his car, which he left abandoned by the roadside, he notices a security camera recording his movements.
The man returns to the property to delete the footage, only to discover this is not going to be possible. However, with his identity now compromised the couple agree to pay the man an even larger sum of money, so that he will leave again.
After agreeing to take a second pay-off, the man says he will go, but not until he has the cash in hand. As it will take a day for the payment to be delivered to the property, the man holds the couple hostage until the money arrives.
Utilising just three lead actors, a couple of extras, and one sun-soaked setting, Windfall is a simple, yet effective thriller. It is a low-budget affair, but one which feels somewhat grander than its meagre investment might ordinarily allow.
Why? Because the emphasis here is on what can be brought to the screen through mood, setting, and through its cast, rather than getting caught up trying to provide huge scenes of spectacle.
If you are wanting big explosions, car chases, and stunts, you won’t find them here. But if you want a dialogue-driven drama to get lost in, then this is a film for you, because it certainly knows how to deliver this.
Similar in style to an Alfred Hitchcock picture, Windfall places characterisation at the forefront of its story and uses this to help drive the drama. It then injects a degree of mystery into proceedings, allows room for some inflammatory conversations about wealth and class, and uses these elements to build suspense.
Thrown into the mix are a few moments of comedy, a degree of danger, and some unexpected tragedy. All of this is then backed up by fine performances from the central trio; in particular from Jesse Plemons, who plays the role of a rich and arrogant husband.
I imagine this movie was fun to shoot, with the director allowing the actors to dig in deep and play up their character tropes at every opportunity. I also expect director Charlie McDowell was fairly hands on, as this whole thing is very well staged.
With Windfall, McDowell knows how to arrange his players just right, to ensure he can squeeze every ounce of tension out of the story. His direction is backed by some beautiful cinematography and an excellent score too.
The music is the work of Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, and it is the perfect accompaniment to this tale. The score conveys so much of the emotion and suspense at the heart of the story, leaning into the highs and lows of the narrative as they present themselves.
The combination of all the above makes for a compelling film and one which doesn’t wear out its welcome. The running time is kept to tight 92-minutes, and Windfall manages to keep the story ticking along until the last reel.
Overall, Windfall is the sort of film which is ideal for a lazy Saturday afternoon, or for those less interested in explosive action and more on board with character work and dialogue. The movie works well as a streaming title, rather than a big screen piece so is ideally suited for Netflix, and is sure to interest those who favour mystery thrillers and old-school movie making techniques.