“We’re all so fucked, right.” So says Mazzy (Sadie Sink), a young woman visiting her father Ben (Eric Bana). This observation matches the dreadful tone of the film as a whole. Titled A Sacrifice, written and directed by Jordan Scott and inspired by Nicholas Hogg’s novel Tokyo, this is a small-scale psychological thriller informed by the loneliness of the coming climate apocalypse and comforting allure of group-think.

Bana plays Ben Monroe, a social psychologist who’s moved from his family to Berlin, following a separation with his wife. He’s made a small name for himself from research on cults and their influence. As he prepares to write a new book, his old cop friend Max (Stephan Kampwirth) and Max’s partner Nina (Sylvia Hoeks) bring him along to a crime scene wherein a small group of people appear to have participated in a ritualistic suicide. Days later, a young woman (Lara Feith) is found dead by a lake. But Nina quickly dismisses the death as unrelated to the apparent cult.

A quick infatuation with Nina distracts Ben from his daughter, who has become enamored with Martin (Jonas Dassler), himself the member of an incredibly creepy, environmentally minded cult. Very early on, it is clear the wayward journeys of father and daughter will inextricably (and dangerously) connect. In one of the better character beats in an extremely on-the-nose screenplay, a trauma from Mazzy’s childhood (where Ben failed to act during an emergency) informs the growing paternal fear throughout the narrative.

This brimming anxiousness here is extremely effective and relatable. Every performance is edgy, every scene scary in its uncertainty. Despite some stilted dialogue and an ultimate twist that frankly doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny, the tone rises above the fold. Scott has a knack for putting the camera in the right place and letting actors act. In this case, Hoeks is bewitching. What she’s asked to navigate within an 88-minute runtime (before credits) is frankly ridiculous, yet she does an incredible job. Bana is sturdy as a lead character with so many flaws that it’s perhaps too many flaws––there’s a perverse (and intentional) irony in a social psychologist so devoid of an ability to read social cues. Regardless, Bana sells it, as he is wont to do. The standout is ultimately Sophie Rois, who plays a cult leader so believable this writer would be a tad skittish to meet her out in the world.

While A Sacrifice‘s third act may be a bit too silly for its own good, the pervasive feeling of dread will linger long after the credits roll. Things are bad and they feel like they’re going to get worse. It’s perhaps easier than ever to succumb to the promise of an easy fix. But then, the only thing more dangerous than hope is a complete lack of hope. This film offers a choice between the two, while acknowledging that maybe there’s no choice at all.

A Sacrifice is now in theaters.

Grade: B

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