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What Critics Think About The Lighthouse

Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson shine in black and white
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2019 11:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson go toe-to-toe as wickies—read lightkeepers—confined to each other's company over a month-long stint on a remote island in Robert Eggers' The Lighthouse. So what's to love about a black and white film set in the 1800s with only two speaking characters? Apparently, lots. Four takes from critics, who give the film a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes:

  • It's "a ferocious battle of wills, a tour de force of cold, clammy suspense and a protracted descent into cabin-fever madness." And it's also "kind of a blast," at times reaching "a peak of pure-cinema ecstasy," writes Justin Chang, who commends both actors. It's Dafoe, however, who provides "the movie's most memorably imposing creation—a thing of pungent wit and rude, rum-soaked vitality," Chang writes at the Los Angeles Times.
  • Dafoe gives "a command performance, but his more subdued co-star is a worthy match" in this "bracing squall of a movie, a briny delight that's as amusing as it is mesmerizingly strange," writes David Sims at the Atlantic. It's "a descent into madness told with the energy of a sea shanty" and "the grand, thudding aesthetic of a silent movie," he adds, applauding Eggers' impressive attention to detail.

  • Glen Weldon "can't wait" to rewatch the "hauntingly hilarious" film. The cinematography by Jarin Blaschke, who opted for a black and white palette, is so good that there were "involuntary grunts of appreciation in the screening I attended," he writes at NPR. "Has abject misery ever been such fun to watch? Has soul-sick dread ever looked so gorgeous?"
  • The Lighthouse is "surely not be for everyone." But Eggers "has made something truly visionary"—"a triumph of mood and vision" that "becomes a kind of phantasmagoria as you are left wondering what's real, what's imagined and whether or not that even matters," writes Lindsey Bahr at the AP. She only felt the two-hour film ran a bit long. "By the end, you might find yourself feeling as crazy and untethered as the wickies."
(Read more movie review stories.)

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