The Accountant is an action thriller starring Ben Affleck as, well, Batman with autism. The film is already proving a hit in the states where it opened at No.1 at the box office, raking in $24.7 million. It follows a string of successful box office returns from the once maligned actor, and features an all-star cast in JK Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow. It is already being compared to the likes of the Bourne film series and Jack Reacher.
What is unique about The Accountant, however, is that the protagonist is autistic, and has been created singularly for the screen, rather than ripped from the pages of a popular novel, like the aforementioned Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher. When asked about the comparisons between The Accountant and the Bourne series, Affleck jokes that “it’s like Jason Bourne, but with a better looking, more masculine protagonist. They did very nice work with what they had to work with in the Bourne films,” Affleck smiles, lobbing a good-natured barb at long-time friend and collaborator, Matt Damon.
In The Accountant, Affleck’s character, Christian Wolff, has autism, and is raised by his father, a former military man. Bringing up his son the only way that he knows how, Affleck is trained in hand to hand combat and weapons proficiency. Combine this with the fact that he’s a mathematical savant, and you get an accountant who uncooks the books for some of the most dangerous people in the world, and who knows how to defend himself.
It was the unique nature of the character which drew Affleck to the project, and both he and director, Gavin O’Connor, did a tonne of research on the subject, including meeting people on various ends of the autism spectrum. Affleck recounts what he discovered during this process. “What I consider most moving about the research that I did, was not the differences of people who were on the autism spectrum, but that they were so similar. Everyone that I talked to so wanted to make friends and reach out and participate in the movie. Some of them wanted to have romantic partners, and some weren’t able to, but they still wanted to. That really moved me – that they have this basic fundamental human need to want to connect with one another. It was heartbreaking to see something that is separating them from other people and how difficult it is and how much time they have to spend circumventing it.”
There have been many films featuring characters on the autism spectrum, but few have had them as a protagonist or depicted them in an accurate or constructive way. With The Accountant, O’Connor and Affleck are trying to remain as rooted in reality as possible, whilst also providing a believable role model for some of the people that they met whilst researching the film.
When asked if his character could be seen as a superhero, Affleck had this to say. “There is a sub-genre in superhero movies where a hero’s abilities stem from what some people may call weaknesses. Or they’re disabled in a certain way but that’s what makes them special or stronger. This doesn’t really fit into that. It’s not a story where people can do magical or metahuman things. It’s not in that fantasy genre in that sense, but it is about being special because of the fact that he’s different. Sometimes we’re made to think that being different is wrong, especially as a child because there’s this conforming instinct. That’s among adults too, but it’s especially present in children, where if you’re not part of the group, if you’re not doing it like everyone else does, then you get shamed or ostracised. This is about how Christian’s otherness is actually quite special, and there’s a heroism in the way that he overcomes his difficulties.”
The Accountant is released in cinemas on November 3.