Sound of Metal: Film Review

Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal is yet another awards season film which has been continually delayed in the UK due to Covid so I’m glad it’s finally getting released just in time for the Oscars, where it has been nominated six times.

Darius Marder‘s film is basically a character study of Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed), a drummer and one half of the metal duo Blackgammon who tours the U.S. in an RV with his girlfriend and bandmate Lou (Olivia Cooke). One day, he begins to lose his hearing. Concerned about his sobriety, Lou and Ruben’s sponsor Hector find the drummer a place at a rural retreat for deaf recovering addicts, where he must learn sign language and accept his newfound deafness. Ruben is determined to undergo expensive surgery to have implants fitted to help him hear, which disappoints Joe (Paul Raci), who runs the retreat on the principle that being deaf is not a handicap.

They are many positives about Sound of Metal, but its biggest strength is the sound design. It puts the audience in Ruben’s shoes and gives us a taste of what it might sound like to gradually lose your hearing. It really makes you realise what it’s like to hear nothing but complete silence in a crowded room and how much you take your hearing for granted. In another genius move, there are no subtitles when the characters use sign language until Ruben has learned to understand it, so this makes you as clueless about what they’re saying as he is. I also never knew what a hearing implant would actually sound like to a deaf person and it’s eye-opening and extraordinary. This film is so effective at showing Ruben’s perspective in the most immersive way. It can feel disorientating and confusing at times, but that’s the whole point.

Ahmed well and truly threw himself into the role of Ruben, learning drums in the space of seven months and how to communicate using American Sign Language. Even without all the dedicated prep he had to do, it’s still an impressive performance. Ruben, who has been sober for four years after being a heroin addict, essentially goes through the stages of grief as he’s mourning the loss of his hearing, his old life, and his drumming days, and he goes on a bumpy journey to accept his deafness. Ahmed expertly navigates Ruben’s ups and downs and deserves his Oscar nomination.

I’m thrilled that Raci, the hearing son of deaf parents, has been nominated too for his role as Joe, a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War. He is a firm authority figure who takes a tough love approach with Ruben. Marder adds so much authenticity to the film by using actors who are deaf or connected to the deaf community. I was excited to see Lauren Ridloff, who plays one of my fave late-season characters on The Walking Dead, play a kind and warm teacher. Cooke rounds out the main cast as the girlfriend who always has so much worry and concern painted on her face. Even though she would like to keep Ruben company, she knows he needs space to himself to get used to his deafness.

I must admit that I thought the film was a bit too long and my attention started to wane after Ruben got his implants but Marder brought it back with a satisfying conclusion. That’s just a small niggle about a film with a moving character arc, terrific performances and stunning sound design. Go check it out!

On Amazon Prime Video from Monday 12th April

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Mogul Mowgli: Film Review

I’m a huge fan of Riz Ahmed so I couldn’t resist checking out his latest movie Mogul Mowgli, and while his performance blew me away, I wasn’t particularly taken with the movie.

Ahmed plays British-Pakistani rapper Zed, who has been living in New York for some time and is on the brink of a major break in his career. He goes home to see his parents in London for the first time in two years ahead of an upcoming tour. Out of nowhere, he collapses and awakes in the hospital to discover he has an autoimmune disease.

Mogul Mowgli is a fantastic showcase for Ahmed’s talents. Not only does he give a deeply personal, emotionally raw performance, but he also throws himself into the part physically, with him convincingly looking like he’s wasting away and losing control over his body. If that wasn’t enough, the film also shines a spotlight on his incredible rapping skills and his ability to create well-observed, pointed, and politically-charged lyrics. I was aware of his rapping talent as I’d watched a few of his music videos as Riz MC but seeing them in the context of a film made such a difference. The film really excels with the rap scenes and I wish there had been more.

Unfortunately, the film as a whole didn’t quite come together for me. It was very watchable and I enjoyed the main narrative, but the dream-like, surreal, hallucinatory moments just didn’t work for me. I know that they had a purpose and were designed to show Zed exploring his identity and reconnecting with his roots, but there were too many and they distracted from the main event. I also felt like the story could have been fleshed out a little more and I wanted it to dig deeper into the characters.

The film, which Ahmed wrote with director Bassam Tariq, is ambitious and very personal and I could appreciate the themes it was trying to explore but it was a bit too indie and quirky for my liking.

Available to watch on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema on Friday 6th November

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Sisters Brothers: Film Review

I had no idea what to expect from The Sisters Brothers before I saw it at the London Film Festival last year but I was attracted to it thanks to the incredible cast – which includes Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal – and I’m pleased to report it was highly entertaining and not your average western.

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The Sisters Brothers: LFF Film Review

I missed the press screening of The Sisters Brothers at the Venice Film Festival and I was gutted because it has the most incredible cast – which includes Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal – so I dropped lucky when I managed to snag a ticket to a public LFF screening.

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Venom: Film Review

My expectations for Venom were incredibly low and I really was preparing myself for the worst superhero movie ever – and while it was by no means good, I enjoyed it more than I expected to.

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Una: Film Review

Rooney Mara shows off her stellar British accent in this film adaptation of David Harrower’s play Blackbird, which has been revived on the stage many times, mostly recently with Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams in the lead roles.

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City of Tiny Lights: Film Review

I love Riz Ahmed so I obviously had to check out City of Tiny Lights, one of his first film lead performances, at the London Film Festival. At the time I was so tired, I didn’t give it a fair shake, so I went to a second screening where I could appreciate it much more. The crime noir thriller is far from perfect but Ahmed is fantastic, once again.

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City of Tiny Lights: LFF Film Review 

I’m loving Riz Ahmed in The Night Of and I want to see him in more lead roles so I had to support his star turn in noir crime thriller City of Tiny Lights.

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Jason Bourne: Film Review

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I loved the original Bourne trilogy but I never really felt like it needed more instalments so I wasn’t particularly excited for Jason Bourne because it seemed like a cash grab as the stories had pretty much wrapped up with 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. And while it doesn’t really add anything new to the franchise, Jason Bourne is still a worthy film that reaches the same standard as the originals.

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