Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Sound of Metal (2021)

© Amazon Studios

Sound of Metal  – Film Review

Cast: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci

Director: Darius Marder

Synopsis: A drummer in a death metal band has his life thrown into disarray as he begins to lose his hearing…

Review: Touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste, the five senses that we have as humans that we use to make sense of this crazy world and everything that goes on around us. Many of us will go through our lives with all of our five senses intact. However at some point, for any number of reasons, some of us may end up losing one or more of these senses. How does one cope when faced with such a tumultuous and life-changing event, especially when the sense that you’ve lost is intrinsically linked to your profession or the thing that you love doing the most? The answer to that question, and so much more, can be found in this thought-provoking, extremely moving directorial debut from Darius Marder.

Ruben (Ahmed) is the drummer and one half of the death metal band Blackgammon, along with his girlfriend Lou (Cooke) the band’s vocalist/guitarist. The two of them travel across the USA playing out gigs wherever they can find them, all the while living out of an RV. For deeply personal reasons, these two have formed a close bond, having been an integral part of each other’s recovery from addiction, and the chemistry between them is evident of just much they mean to each other. Yet one day during a gig, everything changes for Ruben when he suddenly finds that he’s starting to lose his hearing. This threatens to put his whole music career, and indeed his whole life with Lou by his side, in jeopardy. Determined to do whatever she can for him, Lou arranges for Ruben to visit a centre that helps people who are deaf, led by a very compassionate recovering war veteran Joe (Raci).

Ever since he burst onto the scene with his stunning breakout performance in 2014’s Nightcrawler, Riz Ahmed has been consistently putting in excellent performances. Yet his role as Ruben, is a stunning, career best central performance that has solidified Ahmed’s reputations as one of the best actors in the business. Listening to music is an experience that generates waves of emotion, and the same is almost certainly true for anyone who creates and plays music. For a musician, it is incomprehensible to think of the prospect of a future of being unable to hear the music that you are playing to the world, and the sudden loss of one’s hearing, especially in that field of work, is almost guaranteed to cause some anxiety and pain. Right from the moment he feels his hearing starting to fade, Ahmed portrays with heart-breaking authenticity the horror and devastation that someone in that situation would find themselves in, especially when music is Ruben’s life, and it is all he’s ever known.

While the first half of the film is resting on Ahmed’s shoulders to bring the emotional weight of this massive moment in his life, the performance of Paul Raci as Joe, the deaf former war veteran who is offering to help Ruben find his place in the world, is considerably more understated. Yet crucially, it is just as effective. The first half of the film as Ruben and Lou grapple with this, captures the drama and anguish of the situation. Yet the second half of the film is where the heart of the film lies as Ruben slowly but surely comes to terms with his ordeal. Through his own personal experiences, Joe teaches Ruben that while he may have lost a significant part of what made his life so enthralling in the creation and the playing of the music that he and Lou created and shared with the world, there is a whole other world that is opened to him as a result of his deafness. Or, to borrow a well known phrase, as one door closes, another must open.

When a film has “Sound” in its title, focus is inevitably going to turn towards the sound work, and the work done by the sound team of: Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortes, and Philip Bladh, is truly outstanding. Through every aspect of their incredible work, they fully immerse the audience into Ruben’s world. Right from the opening shot of the thrum of the music that Ruben and Lou are creating, to the distortion and muffling that Ruben starts to experience as we watch his hearing disappear before our eyes, to the sound of total silence that follows once Ruben’s hearing has completely disappeared. It all puts the audience in Ruben’s shoes and makes us understand his perspective. There’s been no shortage of films in the past year or so that have brought powerful and urgent messages, and Sound of Metal offers a powerful and meaningful message that deafness is not a handicap, or something that needs to be fixed.

With a career best performance from Ahmed, Darius Marder’s directorial debut is passionate film-making that, quietly and effectively, communicates a very powerful message that the demands to be seen and heard across the world.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ready Player One (2018)

Ready Player One – Film Review

Cast: Tye Sherdian, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: In the year 2045, the real world in pretty bad shape. As such, in order to escape their daily troubles, many people go into a virtual game world known as the OASIS, where a world of games and activities await…

Review: If ever there was a record for the amount of pop culture references that were made throughout the runtime of one particular film, the odds are good that this particular work would be pretty near the top of the list. If you were to play a round of pop culture bingo whilst watching this film, you would probably have enough references to yell out bingo, possible a few times over, and maybe then a few more.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, the story focuses on Wade Watts (name to sound like a superhero alter-ego). He is just one of many citizens whose life is far from idyllic in Columbus, Ohio. So he goes into the virtual reality world known as the OASIS, essentially on a daily basis. Given what you can do in this world (basically anything) it isn’t hard to see why people jump into this world with such regularity. As part of a prize left behind by the world’s creator, a competition arises to win a pretty sweet prize that would change the life of the winner forever, which naturally has Wade’s attention. All the while, the head honchos at a rival company led by Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn) try to get their hands on the big prize for their own maniacal purposes.

Given the sheer volume of pop culture references in this film, it could have very easily felt just like a massive pop culture extravaganza. However, despite all the references that will undoubtedly delight audiences everywhere, Spielberg strikes a balance between the vast array of pop culture and a very personal story involving Wade and the relationship he begins to strike up with another gamer, namely Samantha (Cooke). The chemistry between these two is really well done and provides the film with the emotional heart that it really needs amidst all the pop culture phenomenon that is taking place, and the battle that ensues between these two and Sorrento.

Given the portfolio of a director such as Spielberg, with so many pieces of work that have left their ever-lasting stamp on the world of entertainment, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Spielberg crafts a visual treat in terms of the world of the OASIS and all that it encompasses. After his last few films have ventured for the most part into the Oscar territory, it is refreshing to see Spielberg go back into the pure blockbuster spectacle territory. As such, it is likely that a lot of fun was being had during the production, which definitely filters through when it comes to the story. Though it is a visual treat, the plot does suffer from some narrative issues and there is a notable lack of character development on some of the supporting crew besides Wade and Samantha. Furthermore, though the film is extremely entertaining visually, the plot can’t help but stray into very familiar and predictable territory.

Nevertheless, there is something delightful to behold in what Spielberg has brought to the screen, which will definitely be enhanced by how many of the references you will recognise and appreciate. Sheridan and Cooke are excellent in their key roles, and Mark Rylance once again reunites with Spielberg to great effect once again as perhaps the most significant player in this entire story. Spielberg strikes just about the right balance between this incredible world of the OASIS and the real life struggle that comes about as a result of this quest. The nostalgia factor plays its part, but the film is driven deeply personal story at its core. Though let’s be fair, a film driven entirely by the nostalgia/Pop culture Easter egg bonanza under the genius vision of a director like Spielberg wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing at all.

Visually delightful with pop culture Easter eggs aplenty, fused together with a heartfelt and intriguing story ensure a solid return in the blockbuster film-making department for Spielberg.