Tessa Thompson is a damn movie star, and one unafraid to choose interesting, challenging roles, to boot. From her work in indies like Sorry to Bother You, prestige television like Westworld, and blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok, Thompson has impressed at every turn, offering fearless interior work and a penchant for physical, even silly comedy. All of this and more makes me very excited for her upcoming film — which she herself is executive producing. Balestra, as reported by Deadline, is Thompson’s next project, an original thriller with a novel premise.
Thompson stars as Joanna Bathory, an Olympic-level fencer who suffered a professional disgrace, and is eager to come back with a vengeance. To get ready for the next ceremony, under the guidance of her coach and husband, she undergoes a technologically surreal, experiment: A prototypical program that will allow her to keep training, lucidly, in her dreams. But as she does this, reality starts to fold in on itself, her dreamstate becomes threateningly intertwined with the real world, and a mysterious stranger played by Marwan Kenzari (who turned heads as Jafar in the Aladdin remake) offers equal parts terror and temptation. The film will be directed by Nicole Dorsey (Black Conflux) and written by Imran Zaidi from a story by Aron Eli Coleite (Locke & Key).
Thompson had this to say about this irresistible premise:
Like the sport that Balestra explores, the conception of this piece is sharp and riveting – its is a fascinating look at the price of winning, and what trouble dreams can become when our sense of self worth, reality and identity are tethered too tightly to them. To embark on this journey, both in front of the lens and behind it, with Nicole Dorsey and this phenomenal team is a dream to me – a most beautiful one.
And Dorsey, whose Black Conflux is an indie well worth your time, said this:
To be working alongside the incredibly gifted and perceptive Tessa Thompson on this psychological thriller, ripe with themes of obsession, desire, prestige and fluctuating realities is quite literally a director’s filmic dream.
There are many reasons to be excited about this picture. One: I love that Thompson, like Margot Robbie before her, is using her clout as a tentpole friendly performer to produce female-fronted and helmed projects. Two: I love that an original psychological thriller is being produced in this day and age, particularly one with such a surreal, specific premise that feels like the combination of Inception and Black Swan. And three: I grew up down the street from an Olympic-level fencer, and that is a wild world I demand to see on screen.