Sound of Metal – Review

A Film based on a drummer? Sign me up.

I continued my Oscar Movie Marathon with Sound of Metal. Considering the last film about a drummer i watched was Whiplash, which is probably my favourite film of the last decade, I went into this one rather excited to see another film with music at it’s heart. What I got was not what I expected.

Sound of Metal follows Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer in a heavy metal duo. Together with Lou (Olivia Cooke), his other half both in the music act and in a romantic sense, they are plugging away at being a success in the music industry. Ruben begins losing his hearing, and we follow his journey as he deals with his new reality.

No spoilers as usual, but the film is not a musical in any way. Ruben’s passion and main outlet is his drumming, but that isn’t the focus. Instead you are taken on an eye opening ride into what it’s like to lose a sense like hearing. Ruben’s a deeply flawed character in a lot of ways, and losing his hearing threatens to strip away everything he knows and push him back to a past of addiction.

The couple have both clearly had troubled lives and this isn’t told via exposition or a conversation, it’s all visual. You see the scars on Lou’s arms, the suicidal thoughts tattooed on Rubens chest. It’s never the focus, but it’s there. You get the impression this couple are keeping each other stable and would be lost if separated. It’s all set up very efficiently and we get into the journey Ruben goes on.

Riz Ahmed is in every moment of this film, it is put on his shoulders and he carries it with his passionate and committed performance. You feel the anguish and frustration he feels, and you see the ignorance of someone who lives entirely for one thing. He has a sole focus and one that he is convinced will work, and is too stubborn to ever admit he is wrong.

The film shows the extremes of how I imagine I would feel if my hearing was to go. The frustration at not being able to do something you’ve taken for granted for your whole life. The difficulty adapting to the new sound of the world. It’s all laid out in this film and Riz Ahmed’s performance elevates it.

His performance is matched in this film by the sound design. I often a film’s use of silence powerful, and this does that expertly. I watched with headphones on, and I suggest you do too, as it really added to the experience. A good sound system will do the same, but the way the film flicks between the sound of the scene and the sounds Ruben can hear is unlike anything I have watched before. It’s the closest you can feel in a film to being in a characters head.

This is unlike most films you will watch this year. It’s a dive into what life is like for the deaf community, and still manages to keep an emotional hook that got me more than I expected at the end. It rides on the shoulders of a fantastic performance and unique sound design which all come together into a very good film.

That combination of all these elements is down to a wonderful directorial debut by Darius Marder who can feel a little unlucky to not have an Oscar nomination for directing. Sound of Metal has come out of nowhere to be one of my favourite films of the year.

Good: A heavy hitting look into the life of someone losing their hearing, wrapped in an emotional story told with real passion and care.

Bad: It’s quiet a lot of the time which is a bit unusual…. honestly there is not much I have to say negatively about this film.

TL;DR – Sound of Metal is a film that highlights the trials the deaf community has, and importantly how people adapt and overcome them. That message is worked into an emotional story and delivered in a very well made film.

Nightcrawler (2014) Review

Nightcrawler was a film I missed back in 2014, despite it looking like a film I would really enjoy. Jake Gyllenhaal received heaps of praise for his role as Lou Bloom, but no Oscar nomination which many saw as a snub. Would his performance live up to my expectations?

The short answer to that question is Yes. What’s more, he was definitely snubbed an Oscar nomination. In a year when Christian Bale received one for American Hustle, I think Gyllenhaal more than deserved a place on the list of five for that year. He disappears into the character of Lou Bloom and the intensity he brings draws you into the film.

The character himself is unneringly creepy and yet somehow you’re complete with him on the journey. You don’t quite route for him on the level of Joe from Netflix series You, but it’s a similar feeling of cheering for a bad guy at times. Lou is very clearly, from the first moments of the film, a bad guy. He’s out for personal gain, and that’s it. He’s close to being comic booky in his motivation being so self-centred and his lack of empathy towards others is shocking. Gyllenhaal plays him so well, that what seems like vulnerable moments you realise are calculated moves to manipulate people.

His employee for the duration of the film is played by Riz Ahmed, who shows more talent in this performance than I have seen from him on any other film. He’s not given a very well.developed character, but he is entertaining and makes the most of playing off Gyllenhaal’s performance. I think the sidekick role suits his mannerisms and he’s much more at home here than he was in Venom.

First time director Dan Gilroy begins his directorial career with a brilliant effort. He gets the best out of Jake Gyllenhaal, and one of the main parts of a directors job is pulling the best from his cast. His direction combined with some good editing make this feel like a well put together film made by a seasoned pro, not a first time effort. He also directs Gyllenhaal in Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw, which is next on my queue to watch so I hope he’s continued his solid start.

The films story is kind of paper-thin in a way, it’s all about Lou Bloom, and that’s the crux of the entire film. As such there’s no real story to be engaged with, just the question of what the manical character is going to do next. This kind of took away from the film for me, as there is no plot to keep you engaged. It’s as good a film could be without a decent plot though, with the performances really coming through to make this a very enjoyable film.

Nightcrawler is a film I think a lot of people will enjoy. It’s got one of the best acting shows of the decade for me, and that alone makes it worth 2 hours of your time. We often see Director/Actor partnerships develop in the industry, most famously Scorsese and Dicaprio. It’s given me a lot of hope for Velvet Buzzsaw, as the duo of Director Dan Gilroy and Gyllenhaal clearly enjoy working together. Hopefully there is a bit more to chew on in the story department, but Nightcrawler is a great start to the duo’s creative relationship.

Good: Acting, Cinematography and all round good film-making techniques on show. Character driven film.

Bad: Story is thin, and no real lessons learned by the characters by the end of the film.

8/10 – Worth it for Jake on his own.