The Big Picture

  • Galveston is a stylish crime thriller with neo-noir undertones, explored by director Melanie Laurent and written by True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto.
  • The film’s characters, Roy Cady and Rocky, have complex and compelling arcs that drive the narrative forward.
  • The movie is punctuated by tense moments and dangerous encounters, leading to a thought-provoking ending.


Released in 2018, Galveston, which is based on a novel penned by none other than True Detective mastermind Nic Pizzolatto, is in some ways a spiritual successor to the iconic series. Albeit in film form. Name-drop the iconic aforementioned show, currently in its fourth season, in conversation and any one of many things may spring to mind. A dark atmosphere (or psychosphere), profound, existential soliloquies courtesy of some truly inspired writing, glorious cinematography, and a collection of complicated souls – well-drawn characters who band together in pursuit of a common goal. These are but some of the recurring devices central to the series’ success. Galveston’s director Melanie Laurent uses the source material as a springboard to further explore the things that torment the human psyche in the film, and surfaces with an assured, consummately stylish crime thriller with neo-noir undertones.

Based on his 2010 novel of the same name, Pizzolatto wrote the screenplay for Galveston under the pseudonym Jim Hammett, together with contributions from Laurent. The resulting film is beautiful in the way it juxtaposes prolonged stretches of subtlety with moments of shocking explosiveness. The film is sure to haunt fans of well-conceived, human-driven drama as its key characters travel to the titular city to settle scores. Lauded for its acting in particular, the movie should be seen by True Detective fans who enjoy Pizzolato’s unique brand of literary wordplay and for crime-drama devotees in general.

Ben Foster and Elle Fanning in the Galveston poster

galveston

After escaping a set up, a dying hitman returns to his hometown of Galveston where he plans his revenge.

Release Date
October 10, 2018

Runtime
91

Main Genre
Drama


What Is ‘Galveston’ About?

In Galveston, Ben Foster plays a New Orleans heavy named Roy Cady, who is diagnosed with a terminal illness at the beginning of the film. Swindled by his handler (Beau Bridges), Cady ventures unwittingly into an ambush involving a cadre of hired hands. The year is 1988, and the vibe is distinctly reminiscent of No Country for Old Men. After evading the assassins, he happens upon Elle Fanning‘s Rocky — a young sex worker. He begrudgingly agrees to take her with him on his cross-country retribution mission.

From Galveston‘s opening ten minutes, the viewer is sucked into a dark and puzzling world where distrust sits as heavy as the humidity. Laurent’s use of chiaroscuro light and darkness is particularly skillful, with Rocky cast in half shadow as the evening’s leftovers or the morning’s beginnings seep through windows into hallways. There’s a Coen-esque flavor here, but Laurent’s brushstrokes come from a melancholic hand. Well-rounded characterization is something True Detective is very familiar with, and the desperate plights of both Rocky and Cady are immediately compelling.

‘Galveston’ Lets Ben Foster and Elle Fanning Shine

Ben Foster’s Cady is far from a saintly figure, and no one ever pretends he is. He has done objectionable things, committed a range of crimes, and likely considers some of his own sins unpardonable. His arc feels organic. Initially, only motivated to right the wrong committed against him by his former employer, he ultimately assumes a protector role to Rocky. Cady is a figure who stumbles into redemption — he never set out to find it. Foster renders the character’s journey a completely credible one. What makes Galveston so gritty and compelling is the way its characters approach their mission for revenge. The concept of two people on-the-run is hardly new, but in Galveston, they approach revenge like it’s just a daily task, as normal as heading to the bank to cash a check.

Complimenting Cady’s multifaceted characterization is Elle Fanning’s tortured Rocky. Shortly after she sets out with Cady on the journey west, she returns home to claim and run away with her younger sister, who lives with her stepfather. The sequence is finely-tuned, as the drama inside the trailer is heard, not seen. The trio’s trip is thereafter marked by sadness and uncertainty, but also a trembling sense of forced hope. Rocky demonstrates superhuman resolve. Having been baptized by fire, her protectiveness of her sister and refusal to relent to the dangers of the world render her a supremely memorable foil for Cady. Fanning’s performance astonishes in its emotional honesty. Fans of Fanning are no stranger to her versatility as an actor, jumping from something dark like Galveston to a historical comedy satire series like The Great. The performances and Laurent’s treatment of the screenplay mean the film is harrowing in its realism and shades of gray.

‘Galveston’ Is Punctuated by Tense Moments & Dangerous Encounters

While Galveston is often achingly sad in its examination of the human condition and preoccupation with the heaviness of loss, it’s a movie whose balmy climate and often crystal clear skies backdrop some tender moments. Cady’s initial frigidity cedes to acceptance, and with his mortality weighing on his conscience, he is able to let go like when he shares a dance with Cady at a local dive bar. His fumbled attempts at finding peace and reconciliation with his past don’t totally work out, but you get the sense his mentality is shifting. His newfound role as guardian is also part of that transformation.

Staying at a dusty motel somewhere in the Southwest, Rocky and Cady meet a small-time thief and drifter named Tray (Robert Aramayo). Initially, announcing himself as an opportunistic individual that Cady may be interested in collaborating with, things take a dark turn. Cady’s circumspect nature leads to a confrontation at nightfall and the tension in the lead-up is overwhelming. These plot points keep the viewer wary the entire time, meaning the journey is far from one-note. These moments are also deliberately placed in that they serve as further glimpses into the complicated psyches of the film’s characters. Cady’s attempts to blackmail his old bosses prove fruitless and not long after he learns the truth about Rocky’s younger sister (she is actually Rocky’s daughter), his protectiveness heightens.

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‘Galveston’ Has a Thought-Provoking Ending

Ben Foster and Elle Fanning standing on a dock in Galveston
Image via RLJE Films

In Galveston‘s final act, shot from the perspective of a battered but determined Cady, now charged with additional vengeful purpose, is propulsive filmmaking. The very last scene (which takes place 20 years later) serves as a tribute to Rocky and her bravery 20 years prior, as Cady is interviewed by a now grown-up Tiffany while a violent storm swirls outside. The weather and the environment are omnipresent forces in Galveston, whose characters are penned with the utmost diligence and consideration. You are often reminded of the duality of what can and can’t be controlled. Edgy and unpredictable — Galveston is always powerful, and remains one of the grittiest movies of 2018. There are tell-tale signs of Pizzolatto’s writing. Its brooding, absorbing qualities shine through as its characters wade through considerable depths to achieve some form of redemption or salvation.

Galveston is streaming on Tubi in the U.S.

Watch on Tubi

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