A brisk albeit uneventful road trip thriller, The Wedding Guest, despite traveling all of Southeast Asia, goes nowhere.
Jay, with a pair of handguns, duct tape, and a high off cigarettes, sneaks into a Pakistan home, kidnapping a soon bride-to-be. Things go awry, and Jay is forced to shift gears as the man who hired him now wants nothing to do with the bride.
Michael Winterbottom, the director behind the Trip movies starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, once again entices the audience with his ability to capture the beauty and unique quality of environments of different cultures. Bustling streets, tight markets, adorned hotel lobbies, large swimming pools, white beaches, desert roads are all featured some point or another to create a living, breathing world around the film’s characters. Throughout the film, we follow Jay all over Pakistan and India, and while there may be much unseen, there is also much to be seen. Winterbottom in his film exposes the audience, many of which I assume are unfamiliar, to the diverse atmosphere of Southeast Asia, highlighting both its qualities and its flaws.
Dev Patel plays with a reserved intensity we have not seen from him before. The lost boy you knew him as in Slumdog Millionaire or even in Lion is not present here. Saying little, Patel portrays a man whose brain is always moving and is hardly moved by emotion. His cold stares and violent temper help create an intimidating persona, and prove Patel has the acting chops for action. Co-star Radhika Apte mirrors Patel in his quiet nature with less brooding, and is able go toe-to-toe with him throughout the film, both characters facing depressed internal conflict.
However, there is very little thrilling about The Wedding Guest, a self-proclaimed thriller. Within the first act, the film flashes potential of becoming real exciting real fast. But, things never do. Jay and Samira (Apte) travel out of Pakistan and into India with minimal conflict, predictably become attracted to one another, and quickly hurdle the climax without consequence. No one gets caught despite a police investigation following Jay’s kidnapping of Samira early on, and this investigation is supposed to be the biggest threat to them the entire film. The pair never feel as in danger or vulnerable as they should feel. Raising the volume of the already dramatic score and adding a neat twist on the back end of the plot do not make this film a thriller. The Wedding Guest simply feels shallow…interesting, but shallow. 6.5/10