Galveston movie review

Galveston was one of the few films in 2018 that’s stuck with me long after I watched it. It’s an elegantly simple film that doesn’t need any fancy gimmicks and thrives on the strength of its performers, script and impeccable direction.

The film is an adaptation of Nic Pizzolatto’s 2010 novel. Fans of Pizzolatto’s most acclaimed work, True Detective, will no doubt appreciate Galveston’s gritty and real world feel. Galveston manages to avoid easy classification. There’s some action elements, a generous dose of thriller/drama and a redemptive tale.

Roy Cady (Ben Foster, Hostiles) knows the end is near. After receiving a fatal diagnosis thanks to his years of chain smoking, the enforcer of a mobster boss (Beau Bridges) isn’t crying over his future. He earned it and knows exactly where he’s heading.

galveston movie review - ben foster and elle fanning

Roy’s plans get altered when he gets set up on a routine gig. Barely escaping with his life, Roy stumbles onto Rocky (Elle Fanning), a teenage hooker who got caught up in the assassination plot. While never claiming to be a hero, Rocky quickly brings out a protective side to Roy.

Thankfully, debuting screenwriter Jim Hammett doesn’t try to establish some sort of creepy romance. The film doesn’t need that and the relationship bond works just fine without the physical affection.

Rocky doesn’t want Roy’s money and simply asks for a ride so she can rescue her sister, Tiffany (played by twins Anniston and Tinsley Price), from their abusive step-father. Roy doesn’t have a long-term plan, nor does he need one, but he wants to ensure his young charges are taken care of before his lungs crap out.

Foster’s performance here solidifies his underrated status as one of the strongest actors of his generation. His work here is so multi-layered. Foster doesn’t go for easy roles and the more complicated his character the better. He does just enough subtle contortions and pained expressions to let you inside Roy’s head. You can see him questioning his choices and wondering how he got in this position.

galveston movie review - elle fanning

Fanning is also tremendous with her best performance yet. She navigates this complex precipice of a teenager trying to be an adult and a woman forced to grow up too early fleetingly holding on to her last grasps of childhood. With her joyful glee and bright smile as she’s dancing in a bar or the crushing scene as she details Rocky’s childhood, Fanning’s performance is captivating in every way.

Mélanie Laurent might be best known to audiences for her roles in front of the camera including Inglourious Basterds and Now You See Me. With Galveston, Laurent (Breathe) declares her arrival as a major directorial force.


Laurent’s instincts are always dead on. There’s not a scene that lingers too long or a moment wasted. She utilizes some stellar one-take scenes that pull you into the moment. These nail-biting scenes left me wanting to see how Laurent would do with more action heavy films. Arnaud Potier’s beautiful cinematography frequently casts the distant sunset or ocean as just a few more steps away.

galveston movie review - ben foster and elle fanning on the pier

The final act was a legit surprise. I didn’t necessarily like that choice, but it made a certain sense in the context of the film. A scene late in the film with Riverdale star Lili Reinhart helps justify the decision and ease Galveston to its well-earned conclusion.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Photo Credit: RLJE Films