When The Wedding Guest first begins, it seems like it’s going to go in a dark direction. Our main character Jay (Dev Patel) is traveling to Pakistan and buys items like a gun and some duct tape. It’s clear he’s up to no good and little is known about him. But we’re still wondering what his plan is and why he even has a gun. But after his purpose becomes revealed and he kidnaps Samira (Radhika Apte), a bride to be, the tone slowly turns on a dime. At first, the ominous score and the restraint of Dev Patel’s performance make it seem like we’re in for a moody suspense thriller. However, the film ends up being a meditative yet thrilling genre bender.
In addition, it’s a solid showcase for Dev Patel who proves he’s a true blue leading man. He shows enough brooding restraint to give Jay plenty of mystery. But he’s also able to showcase plenty of star charisma and physical sex appeal. Come to think of it, this film should serve as an audition tape for him to be the next James Bond. After Daniel Craig finishes his run, they’re going to need someone who’s able to demonstrate the charming veneer of the famed calculating anti-hero. Well, Dev captures that perfectly so they might as well give him a tuxedo and the keys to an Aston Martin.
That being said, Radhika Apte manages to be a scene stealer. Apte brilliantly plays her damsel character with sly self-awareness and has terrific chemistry with Dev Patel. Not to mention, Apte slowly walks a thin line between damsel and possible femme fatale, playing up the film’s eventual noir intrigue. It feels like a “star is born” performance from her and here’s hoping that we’ll be seeing more from her in the future.
While not much violent or explosive action happens in The Wedding Guest, it is still made watchable thanks to the mystery surrounding both Jay and Samira. As previously mentioned, Jay may have little backstory but Samira still has a few secrets up her sleeve. Also, the editing by Marc Richardson brilliantly demonstrates the sexual tension between the two of them. During the scenes where they sleep in the same bed together, it seems like they want to engage in intercourse but keep their distance. However, with each passing sequence, they have closer body contact.
Most of the film involves a lot of traveling with little high stakes. However, the editing tricks used in those bed sequences allow the picture to transition from being a brooding kidnapping thriller to a sexy noir drama. Once the picture becomes more meditative, both Richardson and writer/director Michael Winterbottom seize the opportunity to indicate that the movie will become more alluring as it progresses.
As it turns out, The Wedding Guest is a sly, sensual thriller that manages to be brilliantly deceptive. Much like how our main character slowly unveils his mysterious facade, the film’s tone continuously unravels which makes it an intriguing experience. Plus, Dev Patel carries this film with absolute ease as the alluring anti-hero. There might be those who aren’t drawn in because of its lack of heavy stakes. But at the very least, it’s still worth watching because of Dev Patel’s performance.