When he was young, Christian Wolff’s (Seth Lee and Ben Affleck) parents knew there was something different about him. When the facility they took Christian to suggested he spend the summer there, his father (Robert C. Treveiler) decided he would force Christian to find a way to manage his shortcomings.
With his proclivity for solving puzzles and his extraordinary math skills, Christian becomes a forensic accountant. He analyzes bookkeeping records to find anomalies and pinpoint when and where issues started. After tutelage from Francis Silverberg (Jeffrey Tambor), Christian also finds himself helping some very dangerous people launder money.
Lamar Black (John Lithgow) hires Christian to figure out why his company is missing millions of dollars. When Christian and Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), an employee at Black’s robotics firm, begin to uncover the source of the discrepancy, things get dangerous. Christian and Dana must escape a mysterious man trying to kill them (Jon Bernthal) while evading the Treasury Agents (J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson) trying to track him down.
Honestly, when I first saw trailers for The Accountant, I have serious reservations about the movie. Many films featuring people on the Autism spectrum tend to focus on certain stereotypical traits, ignoring everything else that goes along with Autism. It can be difficult to portray someone on the spectrum without either glamorizing one or two aspects or making them the butt of jokes. There is a fine line that must be walked to give a somewhat accurate portrayal.
I have to applaud director Gavin O’Connor and both Seth Lee and Ben Affleck. They walk this fine line as well as can probably be done when making an action movie. They take care to show not only the more positive aspects of some people on the spectrum, the ultra-sharp focus and puzzle solving logic, but take the time to show the more difficult side as well. It would be easy to make Christian adept at his accounting job, yet socially cut off from the people around him. This film touches on the more subtle things, too. The anguish and determination of the parents to best help their child. The sensory overload. The desire to find a way to be a part of the world around them, even if they don’t know exactly how.
Seth Lee does an amazing job as young Christian. Having a child on the spectrum, myself, he brought back a lot of memories of what it is like to have someone that age and in that situation. Ben Affleck shows that once Christian grows up, he has made progress in dealing with being an outsider in a neurotypical world. His desire to be part of a world he doesn’t understand is especially highlighted when he meets Anna Kendrick. Kendrick’s character is kind and accepting, and doesn’t judge Christian by his disability. She treats him the way all people should be treated.
The story isn’t necessarily original. However, having the protagonist with Autism gives it a slightly different twist. One that particularly hits close to home with me. About halfway through the film, Christian seemingly turns into Batman, but these skills are mostly explained in flashbacks peppered throughout the film. It takes things a little over the top, but makes for some good action scenes.
While not without its flaws, The Accountant is a unique take on the action thriller. It stumbles over itself at times, but redeems itself with great performances in difficult roles. The stylized action doesn’t overshadow the characters’ evolution throughout the film, making it an exciting, thoughtful choice for a night at the movies.