Denzel Washington takes on August Wilson's dramatically dense play for the big screen, directing and starring in an Oscar-nominated turn as an African American Father in '50s America.
Having played the part on Broadway multiple times, at a certain point Washington was going to be too old to portray Troy Maxson - a sanitation worker who projects his many life regrets onto his young son. Stepping behind the camera himself was a wise move, as this is very much a film that requires breathing room for the actors to delve through the layers of Wilson's material. The two-time Oscar winner has the experience and grace to allow those opposite him do career best work too.
In terms of plot and setting, it's very much a film made from a play. The locations are kept to a minimum and the scenes long, with plenty of room for the actors to flex their muscles; Washington doesn't try to reinvent the wheel here and is extremely respectful of his source material. He also directs himself to some of his strongest work since Malcolm X, conveying the complex emotions of a man who feels he was done wrong by the world. Many men of that era have a strange competitiveness with their sons, but it's never really that simple and the emotive exchanges between Washington and a great Jovan Adepo are often tense and heartbreaking - it's superb stuff to behold.
This film belongs to one person, though and that's Viola Davis. Giving one of the most powerful performances from any actor we've seen this year, she somehow simultaneously portrays regret, strength and love, often within seconds of each other. They say the true indication of realising someone's talent is seeing them do something you couldn't - every actor in Hollywood would marvel at her work here. She should, by right, be in the lead actress category for The Academy Awards, but regardless if she doesn't walk away with a statue come February 26th then the game is rigged.
Review by Mike Sheridan | 15:54 | Friday 17th February 2017 | Movie Review