Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Fair Play is an effective throwback style thriller

Chloe Dormont delivers a nineties-style thriller for her directorial debut in Fair Play from Netflix. When a coveted promotion at a cutthroat financial firm arises, once supportive exchanges between lovers Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) begin to sour into something more sinister. As the power dynamics irrevocably shift in their relationship, the couple must face the actual price of success and the unnerving limits of ambition.

I enjoy watching thrillers that are set in an office environment. If Fair Play were produced in the 80s, the leading roles would be played by Tom Cruise and a female Brat Packer. If it were made in the 90s, Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock would likely star. The early 2000s might feature the lead roles of Ryan Gosling and Kate Hudson.

Since the film is a thriller, I want to keep my review spoiler-free as Fair Play is one of those films that audiences should experience knowing as little about the plot as possible. Dormont begins the film by introducing us to Emily and Luke at a wedding for Luke’s brother, where Luke decides to pop the question, which Emily gracefully expects. We later learn that they work together and have been dating for the last two years.  Due to the rules of the office, the couple has to keep their relationship a secret. Luke appears to be the more ambitious of the two, while Emily is happy to support her beau. However, when Emily gets promoted ahead of Luke, the layers of the relationship falter, which sets up the film’s true message.

Dormont avoids some of the usual plot points films of the genre usually take, which is good. While there are numerous sex scenes between the two, we never see any full-frontal nudity; instead, the scenes are organic. She builds Emily up slowly and allows us to understand her motives nature. Phoebe Dynevor fully taps into a character who has to compete in a male-dominated world and prove she’s much better. I was so invested in Dynevor’ s arc that I didn’t realize she was one of the leads from Bridgerton until halfway into the movie.

Alden Ehrenreich has had a target on his back since the underwhelming Han Solo prequel a few years ago. Thankfully, he redeems himself here, and hopefully, this is his niche. At his core, Luke is generally a good guy with a wounded ego. While there were moments I yelled at the screen for some of his choices, I had to understand that he wasn’t an alpha male but a beta, so the actions were true to his character. Luke finds himself in a state of distress as he struggles to reconcile his innate tendencies with the rigid expectations imposed upon him by society. This internal conflict has left him wounded and uncertain of his place in the world.

The film belongs to Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich, so sans Eddie Marsan as their boss, doesn’t expect to see many familiar faces in the cast with substantial roles. That said, when we reach the film’s final five minutes, it’s clear that Domont has crafted a tense relationship thriller exploring destructive gender dynamics between partners in a rapidly changing world.

Final Grade B+

Fair Play is in limited theaters now and available to stream on Friday at www.netflix.com/FairPlay

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