Quick Reviews: '1917', 'Dolemite Is My Name' | Sam Mendes' War Drama, Comedy Starring Eddie Murphy
If there is a film out there from 2019 that will inspire filmmakers around the world, it has to be 1917. This is about as cohesive and locked into place as you can get creatively and is a masterclass of a working relationship from director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. 1917 certainly has a gimmick with the one-shot (broken into two parts) thing but the story doesn’t only rely on it but the gimmick very much relies on the story.
The man of the hour is Deakins who gets to play with both natural light and night shoots with artificial lighting like he’s a kid in a bouncy castle. Not a single frame of the movie is wasted as it always keeps the main characters in your eyesight or lets you know where they are positioned. There is an underground portion where corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are exploring the place and then fighting for their lives which is full of incredible close quarters filming. Similarly a highlight is the night time where you get more shadows and fire elements thrown into the look of the film. By being in awe of it all you might forget what detailed work Mendes is doing in the director’s chair as every camera movement is so sophisticatedly choreographed and cut together.
There is a gloomy score by Thomas Newman which is perfectly eerie especially in the first 30 minutes and it’s meshed with anxiety-inducing sound design for the whole runtime. The visual effects are incredibly realistic looking to the point where they blend in well with the overall production design.
After the riveting beginning the film comes down a level following a certain farm house scene as a big twist happens. This unfortunately puts a halt to main pair Schofield’s and Blake’s banter which was really building something fascinating in their development. 1917 never picks up the pace again quite like it so the rest of it feels like a cutscene (though a masterful one in technical sense). MacKay and Chapman as actors just don’t get a piece big enough to bite on, instead a lot of their work turns into grunting and coughing which would be fine if there was something else too.
Smileys: Cinematography, directing, sound editing, score
Frowneys: Minor issues with ending
1917 is the best example of craftsmanship you can achieve right now.
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
Dolemite is his name and watching films is my game. Craig Brewer directs and Eddie Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore, a filmmaker and comedian hustling his way through the entertainment industry in the 1970s. What you get out of Dolemite Is My Name is pure good time, wide smiles from start to finish and smooth acting performances.
The best part about the movie is that it’s genuinely amusing, starting with Rudy and ending with Dolemite. Never does it take the foot off the pedal but instead it flies by like that. Something I need to point out: I’m not too familiar with Moore so I can’t really speak to the accuracy of this particular depiction. However I do think that Murphy is at the top of his skillset, you could say it’s a return for him to be worthy of being the starring man once again. Everything he does is heightened to wonderfulness, the doubts, aspirations and gratification from both successes and failures. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is remarkable as Lady Reed, a character who is kind of like the grounded half of Moore personality-wise. There’s also a lot to look at when it comes to costumes, displaying a burst of colours without ever feeling disjointed even when serious moments are happening.
Just like many biopics do, Dolemite Is My Name also runs into trouble with setups and resolutions. In the beginning we’re introduced to a character named Ricco who I kept expecting to come back at least in some form. But the way that is left unresolved cheapens the film’s story, also considering how the rest of it makes Moore to be perceived. Similarly we get small moments with his family and about his music career and that just ends up being a waste of time because all of it gets forgotten. So we’re on to the next set, just like that.
Smileys: Costume design, Eddie Murphy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Frowneys: Originality, structure
The film just isn’t quite as big and explosive as Dolemite himself is.