‘End of Watch’. Pena and Gyllenhaal have the best on-screen relationship of the year. One of the finest films this year. Wow.
Every moment between Pena and Gyllenhaal is so damn natural. To create a bond like that so quickly requires incredible writing and acting, but even more than that. A real sense of unequivocal mateship and brotherly love. Someone you would do literally anything for, without considering the gravitas of the situation, for better or worse. “Follow me into the house, man. Follow me in.”
I was crawled up in my seat, hands covering my eyes when they’d walk into any precarious situation. The stakes are clear, the tension high. The stark manner in which that knife to Van Hauser is first shown is a prime example.
The humour generated between the two meant I was laughing as much as I have in any comedy this year. Hilarious back and forth dialogue, that again, feels so real and unscripted; I do wonder how much of that was written versus improvised. Add to that the single greatest moment of slapstick humour this year, in a time in the film you totally don’t expect.
There’s a little moment when both of them are driving around, joking, and they get a call. Very simply, they take their sunglasses off, Pena flipping his so they’re on the back of his head, and Gyllenhaal, the top of his. Their faces change ever so slightly, and the tone of the film goes from buddy comedy to serious seamlessly. You go with it, and it happens time and time again.
Anna Kendrick is a sublime addition to the cast and film. The playfulness and candidness of that scene where she records herself the morning after is crazy in how well it works. I was completely hesitant when it began, and totally in love with her two minutes after. In general, the little moments used to evolve their relationship are really well done. All we get of their weekend at Santa Barbara is a car sing-along. What’s communicated through that is all that the audience needs.
The direction once again is echoing this candid, raw nature of the film, and largely works. Ayer isn’t completely beholden to it, which is fair enough, considering the broader perspective needed for the film’s climax.
The ending kills emotionally, and Gyllenhaal, slowly making his way to the podium, simply saying “He was my brother” is completely overwhelming.