Like director Tom McCarthy's best movies, this slow-burn neo-noir unfolds as a detailed, nuanced character study, with no detail too small and plot twists layered expertly into the tapestry. A plot synopsis or a trailer can't do justice to the impressive way that Stillwater plays out, with McCarthy (The Station Agent, Spotlight, etc.) making full use of the film's 140-minute running time to dig deep into human emotions and hard choices. One of the key scenes -- Bill spotting the killer at a crowded soccer match -- comes at a moment after the movie has lulled us into a sense of comfort. Consequently, the discovery comes as a jaw-dropping shock rather than a routine twist.
In the midst of the storytelling, Stillwater deals with outsiders' presence in places that are foreign to them and the way that they can be viewed through lenses of hate, suspicion, or mistrust. Bill is portrayed as a bullheaded, pushy American, with sunglasses parked over his grim face or perched on top of his dirty baseball cap. (Damon gives an impeccable, immersive performance.) He shoves his way into situations, demanding to know whether anyone speaks English, unafraid -- or unaware -- of being rude. His slow transformation into someone who cares about others feels genuine, even though it can't fix his ultimate character flaw, which is the reason the movie is really a noir. In the end, Stillwater brilliantly, brutally turns its lens back on the Americans.