The Unforgivable Review: An Intense Thriller With Subtle Performances
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Review: The Unforgivable Is An Intense Thriller With Subtle Performances From Its Stellar Cast

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BY December 11, 2021

Sandra Bullock has fast become a critically acclaimed actress with some huge credits to her name. Once upon a time known for doing a lot of romantic comedies, she is now an Oscar-winning actress with movies like Gravity, The Blindside and Bird Box. Her latest Netflix original movie is yet another powerhouse performance from the star. So much so, that it completely caught me off guard. The Unforgivable is a riveting and captivating watch, with astounding performances from its cast. Especially Bullock, who brings to life a troubled woman with a dark secret. Read on for my spoiler-free The Unforgivable review.

The Unforgivable Reminds Us How Amazing Sandra Bullock Is

On Parole Image via Netflix.

The premise behind The Unforgivable is a simple one, at first glance. A woman is released from prison after serving 20 years for murder. And that too, of a police officer. Trying to reintegrate back into life after so long, is difficult enough without the label of ‘cop-killer’. Especially when a convict still has to be in the system, interacting with and reporting to various members of the law. But Ruth Slater (Sandra Bullock) doesn’t seem to care about the odds that are seemingly stacked against her. She has a blasé attitude about the whole thing, but is also on a mission of her own.

The trailer for The Unforgivable mostly featured scenes of Bullock in quiet moments, then in hysterical ones, with quick shots of the other supporting cast of high calibre actors. It didn’t really do anything for me. But from the first minute of The Unforgivable, the movie gets its hooks in you right away and does not let go for the whole duration. And this is solely due to the directing style of Nora Fingscheidt and the screenplay by Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz and Courtenay Miles. It’s clear to me now though, why the trailer was made the way it was, as revealing anything else, would dilute the impact of the story. And what a story!

The Unforgivable Review Will Be Spoiler-Free

The Unforgivable review Bernthal Image via Netflix.

Without getting into too many details, Ruth has a clearly defined plan now that she is out of prison. The crime that put her in jail for 20 years, also caused her younger sister to go into the foster care system without any family to take care of her. For 20 years, she has had no contact with her foster parents and has no idea how or where her system is. So obviously, Ruth’s mission is to find her sister now that she’s back in the real world. But that presents its own set of challenges, ones that even Ruth isn’t prepared to deal with.

While The Unforgivable feels like a straightforward story, Fingscheidt tells it in a very unique way, intercutting two other stories with that of Ruth’s, in a way that doesn’t feel gratuitous or forced. It’s still very much the story of Ruth and her search for her sister. But the others enhance the journey and better round out the movie with their presence. And boy, are there some big names in this one.

The Unforgivable Cast Is Huge In Minor Roles With Big Impact

The Unforgivable review Davis Image via Netflix.

While Bullock carries the movie entirely on her own, her supporting cast adds a lot to the proceedings. Vincent D’Onofirio as a lawyer Ruth accidentally meets helps her on her mission but also gives Ruth the much-needed reality check that she deserves. Viola Davis, yes, you heard me right, as another character, personified the vitriol that society feels towards felons, despite their repayment to society. And Davis is exceptional in a very small role.

Jon Bernthal is in a role that’s very contrary to the kind of roles he usually plays. Bernthal’s Blake provides Ruth with some human contact after her 20 years of isolation and loneliness in a role that’s sweet and very endearing. And lastly, Richard Thomas and Linda Emond as two parents who will do anything to protect their child is a wonderful counterbalance to everything going on in the story. It’s honestly an ensemble cast that does their bits here and there and really elevates the movie from just being a one-note story.

Sandra Bullock In The Unforgivable Is Wonderful

The Unforgivable review Bullock Image via Netflix.

Ultimately though, The Unforgivable review is all about Sandra Bullock. In a short time, Bullock provides so many shades to Ruth that it’s highly impressive. She’s distanced and cold in the beginning, with a hard edge to her. As her story continues we see her break down, emotionally and physically. Not to mention her desperation and anxiety at everything happening in her life.

It’s hard to play broken-down characters without going over the top or underplaying it. There’s a fine balance. Bullock plays Ruth with the shred of dignity anyone in her position will still have, and their desperate attempts to hold on to it, despite their terrible circumstances. Sandra Bullock in The Unforgivable is both nuanced and explosive, in a stunning performance that could easily be a contender for awards next season. 

Review Of Unforgivable Is Praise, But Also Has Issues

The Unforgivable review D'Onofrio Image via Netflix.

I said that this review of The Unforgivable will be spoiler-free, which prevents me from talking about the other plot points that make this a great movie. But I’ll try to without spoiling anything. Along with Ruth’s story, there are two other tracks deal with the consequences of her actions from 20 years ago. And how those past sins affect her now in the present day, completely unbeknownst to her. The Unforgivable is a quiet thriller that works on so many levels. But at times, the pacing and story does waver slightly. The reveal is a shocking one, but how we get there feels odd. The climactic resolution isn’t satisfying enough, given the build up of the entire movie. Some of the execution also feels choppy and kind of meandering. But ultimately, it’s the performances that save the movie, making it immensely watchable despite a few of its issues. 

The Unforgivable premieres on Netflix on December 10, 2021.

Are you excited to watch Sandra Bullock add to her fine list of performances with this new movie? Let me know in the comments below.

Featured image via Netflix.


Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at or on Twitter @theshahshahid.


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