The White Tiger ★★★

Sharp, cynical, and stylish. Gourav, Rao, and Chopra are all good in this, and the best parts deal with the layered dynamic that forms between them. Ashok (Rao) and Pinky (Chopra) don’t want to see themselves as masters, with Balram (Gourav) as their devoted serf, but easily and naturally treat him that way when it’s most convenient. When Balram describes Ashok to another driver as “a good man,” the other scoffs: “He’s a rich man.” Wealth relies on a certain innate comfort with the exploitation of others, and having enough layers of insulation between you and the bloody business of making/keeping that wealth that you can still think of yourself as a good person. Again and again, Ashok and his family prove that goodness is a luxury for the rich, which can be indulged or dismissed as casually as a hairstyle. For Balram no such luxury exists, and his only path to the top requires getting his claws wet.

Unfortunately, a lot of that tension and brutality gets diluted because the film is too long (I haven’t read the novel, but I’d guess it’s a case of extreme devotion to the text: the middle, in particular, drags on with scenes that were probably essential on the page, but repetitive on screen). The inevitable bloodletting can’t help but feel a little anticlimactic. Director Rahmin Bahrani keeps us in Balram’s perspective, the camera lingering on the objects of his desire and glancing skittishly at reminders of the poverty he’s trying to escape. It’s a powerful story and character piece; but we probably would have gotten the point in 90 minutes, instead of 124.

Some of these weekly Netflix movies are going to be good, it turns out!