SHIFTER’s Kevin Bourne calls Netflix’s Reptile “the perfect murder thriller”. Find out why in his Reptile film review.
Well, the 2023 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival started with a bang. Among the films being screened on opening day was Reptile, written by Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro, Benjamin Brewer, and Grant Singer, and starring Del Toro, Oscar nominee Justin Timberlake, and Alicia Silverstone.
The film is set in the quaint town of Scarborough, Maine, but behind the lush landscapes and small town charm is a gruesome, noir whodunit where detective Tom Nichols (Benicio Del Toro) must solve the violent murder of a local realtor. Left grieving is her boyfriend and fellow realtor Will (Justin Timberlake) who discovered the body.
Unfortunately for detective Nichols, there’s no shortage of suspects, including her current lover and soon-to-be ex-husband, Sam (Karl Glusman), and their eccentric and obsessive neighbor (Michael Pitt) with an axe to grind with Will and his family. Nichols has to piece together all the clues, but nothing is as it seems. In the end, the case may be even bigger than he thought as the film begs the question, “Who can you really trust?”
Reptile marks the fiction feature debut from director Grant Singer who served up an exceptional piece of storytelling alongside cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, known for his work with M. Night Shyamalan and Jordan Peele. It sounds cliché, but the dark and moody shots coupled with an equally dark, suspenseful and ominous score are haunting, leaving you on the edge of your seat.
The film is also well-edited and well-written. With a lot of films there are scenes that go on just a bit too long, or a piece of dialogue that wasn’t necessary. As you look at the shots and editing you get the sense that not a second of the film was wasted. Every second of the film needed to be there.
Despite the directing, editing, cinematography, score and writing, a murder mystery is only as good as its cast who are tasked with making the twists and turns believable. Del Toro is known for acting with his eyes and he brings that to this film. You can see the ideas rolling around in his brain as he pieces together the crime, drawing viewers into the story. What made the film even more special were moments of unexpected comic relief from Del Toro which added personality to the story. The humor was subtle, yet well-written and well-timed.
Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake does a good job of portraying the grieving boyfriend and high performing realtor and Alicia Silverstone delivers as detective Nichols’ sexy and loyal ride or die wife.
Overall, Reptile is a suspenseful, clever, and visually stunning piece of work. Both in front and behind the camera, everyone understood the assignment and executed a flawless film. It’s hard to call a movie perfect, but Reptile is, indeed, the perfect murder thriller.
SHIFTER editor, Kevin Bourne, is a Toronto-based entertainment journalist focusing on music and film & TV. He was named one of 310 international voters for the 81st Golden Globe Awards by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Tomatometer-Approved Critic by Rotten Tomatoes.