Tag Archives: filmmaking excellence

10 Westerns to Watch Before You Die

If you watch movies, then you’ve probably seen (or heard of) the western, one of the most iconic genres of the Hollywood film industry.

Maybe you love them. Maybe you’ve seen one subpar western movie and thought “meh.”

I hated them…until I watched the right westerns.

The goal of this article is not to re-hash the “best western films ever” that have been written about and recycled endlessly. (You can find any number of these lists on IMDB.com.) Rather, these are 10 of the westerns that changed my outlook on the genre.

Everyone of these westerns is worth watching before you kick the bucket, or if you’re simply seeking to expand your film education, or if you are planning to write one yourself.

But enough about me. Let’s dig in…

10. The Magnificent Seven

John Sturges | 1960 | Runtime: 2h 8m | IMDB: 7.8 | Metascore: 74

Mexican peasants recruit seven gunfighters to defend their village from a band of vicious banditos in this classic, iconic western. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson star in this western adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, delivering action, grit and drama on the American frontier while accompanied by Elmer Bernstein’s Oscar-nominated score.

If you like this, also watch: The Magnificent Seven (2016), The Professionals, Rio Bravo, Silverado, Vera Cruz, Young Guns

9. 3:10 to Yuma

James Mangold | 2007 | Runtime: 2h 2m | IMDB: 7.7 | Metascore: 76

If you’re looking for something a little more modern, this film is it. Starring Russell Crow and Christian Bale, 3:10 to Yuma has it all: nail-biting action, big set pieces, great acting, iconic roles—all without sacrificing quality characters. Considered to be one of the great westerns of the 21st century, this remake of the Glenn Ford classic tells the story of a destitute war veteran-turned-rancher escorting a wily outlaw to the 3:10 train to Yuma. Nominated for two Oscars.

If you like this, also watch: 3:10 to Yuma (1957), High Noon, Open Range, Rio Grande, Stagecoach, Tombstone, Winchester ‘73

8. Shane

George Stevens | 1953 | Runtime: 1h 58m | IMDB: 7.7 | Metascore: 80

Alan Ladd stars in this small tale about a mysterious gunfighter who defends his newfound friends from a vicious frontiersman and his band of violent cronies. A departure from earlier westerns, this Oscar-winning film forgoes blood-pumping action sequences in favor of a slow boil that delivers a cathartic payoff and several iconic scenes. Particularly memorable are its breathtaking landscapes that underscore a previously-overlooked story: the struggle of the second wave of pioneers against the frontier’s first settlers.

If you like this, also watch: The Big Country, The Great Silence, Johnny Guitar, Open Range, Pale Rider, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Shenandoah, Unforgiven

7. Broken Arrow

Delmer Daves | 1950 | IMDB: 7.2 | Metascore: N/A (External only)

Let’s start by making clear that we are referring to the 1950 film starring Jimmy Stewart, not the 1996 flick starring John Travolta or the 1950s TV series of the same name.

What makes Broken Arrow stand out is not its three Oscar nominations, but its unusually progressive approach to “cowboys and Indians.” Unlike the typical western that focuses on the struggle of white hats vs black hats or cowboys vs Indians, Stewart’s characters seeks to bring the two sides together in peace—but at great personal cost. Although Broken Arrow is perhaps the first big Hollywood blockbuster to depict indigenous Americans as sympathetic and fully human, the movie industry still had a long way to go in how they express “minorities” (read: non-white folks). They still do.

But, then again, Hollywood has a pretty dicey history when it comes to racial and gender equality, even though the majority of industry professionals are strongly pro-equality. (It remains a sad fact that Hollywood’s biggest influencers are still a bunch of rich white guys.)

If you like this, also watch: Dances with Wolves, The Far Country, Giant, The Man from Laramie, Legends of the Fall, Little Big Man, The Naked Spur

6. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

George Roy Hill | 1969 | Runtime: 1h 50m | IMDB: 8.1 | Metascore: 66

Hollywood legends Paul Newman and Robert Redford star in this classic by screenwriting great William Goldman about two outlaws who haven’t changed with the times—and pay the ultimate price. Not only does this classic film boast four Oscars to its name, IMDB also lists Butch Cassidy in its Top 250 films of all time.

Westerns set after the end of the American Civil War (1865) tend to express themes of changing times, technology versus human effort, and old-fashioned heroes struggling to adapt to the new status quo. Accolades aside, Butch Cassidy sits at the pinnacle of this theme. Times have indeed changed since the Civil War ended. Now, the traditional “wild west” has evolved into a strange world populated by technology and civilization, leaving the old cowboys in the dust.

If you like this, also watch: Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Last Train from Gun Hill, My Darling Clementine, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Wild Bunch

5. The Gunfighter

Henry King | 1950 | IMDB: 7.7 | Metascore: 94

All too often overlooked but an absolute gem, this black and white film starring Gregory Peck focuses on the plight of the gunfighter who has reached his peak, but then finds himself unable to escape his reputation. In some ways, The Gunfighter demonstrates attributes of an anti-western without fully shedding its western skin. It’s a slower, tragic character piece that illuminates a neglected aspect of the western, the gunfighter as a human being, while revealing the emotion, wisdom and ignorance that so often is left out of more traditional western flicks. Thoughtful and introspective, the cast carries the show with aplomb and magnetism, carefully circumventing devolution into a mindless shooter.

If you are a serious cinephile, then be sure to put this notch in your belt. It will stick with you.

If you like this, also watch: The Bravados, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Shootist, Yellow Sky

4.  The Searchers

John Ford | 1956 | Runtime: 1h 59m | IMDB: 8.0 | Metascore: 94

Like The Gunfighter, this under-appreciated masterpiece will burn itself into your memory. The Searchers is nothing less than John Ford at his best. John Wayne at his most John Wayne-ness. The high point part of every western crammed into 118 minutes—although it seems much longer.

That said, The Searchers tells the story of two men who set out to find their captured niece/sister after their family is murdered by a Comanche warband. The thing is, it takes them half a decade to find her, enduring hardship and personal sacrifice along the way. Lighter comedic moments counter-balance the heavy drama. Expect to laugh, cry, and cheer.

If you like this, also watch: El Dorado, Fort Apache, Jeremiah Johnson, Nevada Smith, Red River, Ride the High Country, Rio Lobo

3. Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino | 2012 | Runtime: 2h 45m | IMDB: 8.4 | Metascore: 81

Moving forward in time to modern cinema, Tarantino’s provocative film is not so much a “western” in the orthodox sense as it is a self-described “southern.” In terms of genre, Django Unchained still fits the bill for the “western” genre.

Django tells the story of a freed slave who pairs up with an itinerant German Jew to rescue his love from a charming but sociopathic plantation owner. With an all-star cast that includes Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, and Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained is one of Tarantino’s greatest. Viewers can expect the trademark Tarantino contrast of meticulous patience and brutal violence. By roping in a host of alluring minority characters, the movie doesn’t hold back on its tacit (sometimes blatant) criticism of the Old South.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking Django is just a revisionist apology for slavery. The film is much more than that—and nothing short of an enthralling ride from start to finish.

If you like this, also watch: Duck, You Sucker, The Hateful Eight, Hell or High Water, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Revenant

2. True Grit

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen | 2010 | Runtime: 1h 50m | IMDB: 7.6 | Metascore: 80

Underrated and understated, the 2010 remake of True Grit is a small story that delivers 110%. Jeff Bridges stars as Rooster Cogburn, a hardened, gritty man who reveals his inner soft side while protecting a young girl with a powerhouse personality (played by Hailee Steinfeld). As far as remakes go, this 2010 version leaves its 1969 predecessor in the frontier dust.

While the Coen brothers’ storytelling far outstrips that of the original, Jeff Bridges delivers some of his best work. In comparison, John Wayne’s performance in the previous True Grit is, well, not great. The newer True Grit remains a personal favorite of mine for its understated delivery and eloquent filmmaking.

But don’t take my word for it—True Grit was nominated for 10 Oscars, after all. Less than 100 films in the Academy’s cinema history can claim as much.

If you like this, also watch: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Big Gundown, Dead Man, True Grit (1969)

1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Also known as: Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo | Sergio Leone | 1967 | Runtime: 2h 58m | IMDB: 8.8 | Metascore: 90

If you only ever watch one western in your life, this is the movie to watch. The most famous Spaghetti Western of all time, Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo stars Clint Eastwood as the lead, Tonino Delli Colli’s breathtaking cinematography, and Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone’s timeless soundtrack. A three-way triad of conflict drives the story as a “good” character teams up with a “bad” and an “ugly” (read: chaotic neutral) character to uncover buried gold, all the while trying to outwit, kill or imprison each other along the way.

The result?

Nearly every visual and soundtrack stereotype pop culture associates with the western genre comes from this film. Three-way Mexican standoff? Check. Frenetic classical guitar music and blaring trumpets? Yup. Clint Eastwood? Double check. Stony-faced men of few words? Triple check.

IMDB.com ranks The GB&U as the top western and #9 in its 250 Top Rated Movies—to which Once Upon a Time in the West (another Sergio Leone film) is a distant second at slot #37.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly has to be #1 on this list not just because it’s an outstanding cinema masterpiece, but because it has inspired filmmakers, writers, actors, cinematographers, composers and wannabe cowboys for decades since. In many ways, The GB&U is unofficially considered the ultimate expression of the western as a movie genre.

If you like this, also watch: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, High Plains Drifter, Once Upon a Time in the West

Honorable Mentions

Clearly, this is by no means a comprehensive list. Many gems did make the cut—not because I dislike them or find them lacking aesthetic value. Rather, I tried to stay focused on 10 stand-out works of cinematic art that not everyone may have seen.

I did not include any comedies in the aforementioned list. If you are interested in comedy-westerns, start with films like Blazing Saddles, Three Amigos!, My Name is Nobody, and (if you’re brave enough) Wild Wild West (1999).

If you want to explore film that goes against everything the western genre is and stands for, then watch No Country for Old Men, an unofficial anti-western in the most extreme and bitter sense. Warning: As with any anti-genre, if you like the genre itself, anti-genre may make you uncomfortable. If you want to start with something milder, try a Revisionist Western.

And lastly, I did not include any of the TV show westerns that litter the history of the small screen, like Lonesome Dove, Bonanza, and Deadwood, to name a few.

If you are interested in exploring other gems in the western genre, several IMDB users have put together helpful lists of top westerns to watch. I found this list particularly useful.

Thinking about writing your own western? Or looking for help on the next draft? I’m happy to help.

8 Movies That Prove Perspective is Everything

If film has taught us anything, it’s that different people perceive things differently. That’s how we get conflict. And we wouldn’t have conflict if we all experienced and interpreted events in exactly the same way.

Whereas history presents itself as being an objective treatment of the human story, story in the narrative sense relies more on the subjective experiences of our narrators, protagonists, and characters. The way they view motivations and events isn’t necessarily the way other characters in those same stories would view them.

The storytelling term that addresses this subjectivity is called an ‘unreliable narrator.’ How an unreliable narrator frames story events for the audience isn’t necessarily the way they actually happened.

On that note, we’re going to explore eight movies that show how perspective and point of view shape our interpretation of story.

(WARNING! These films aren’t for everyone. But if you’re in the mood to flex those hungry cinephile muscles, then you should absolutely watch every movie on this list. Hint: The best ones are at the end.)

1. Dale and Tucker vs Evil

IMDB | 2010 | R | 1h 29min | Action, Comedy, Horror

Let’s start simple and easy. Dale and Tucker vs Evil is a fun, light-hearted romp that takes a concept like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and turns it on its head to show things from the perspective of the “bad guys.” What we learn, however, is that these chainsaw-wielding hillbillies are anything but “bad.” It’s merely the viewpoint of the victims that frame Dale and Tucker as psychotic murderers. Worth noting is how the movie goes the extra mile to make use love and sympathize with the unlucky protagonists, played by the talented Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine.

Continue reading 8 Movies That Prove Perspective is Everything

10 Artistic Films to Watch Before You Die

A quick heads up: We’re going to hit the international smorgasbord of taste in this article.

Are you a cinephile who loves artistic film? The road less traveled? Films that dare to defy convention? Then you’ve come to the right place.

I’m not going to lie, each of these films holds a special place in my heart and have stayed with me in the decades since I first experienced them. Now I want to pass those memorable experiences onto others.

No, not every one of these movies hits a Perfect 10 on the quality scale, and no, I’m not asking you to absolutely love every one of these films. However, I will ask you to keep an open mind and ignore the IMDB ratings. This discussion is about expanding your horizons beyond the narrow cookie-cutter Hollywood norms.

Let’s start with something soft and light:

1. Heartbeats

heartbeats

Originally: Les amours imaginaires
Director: Xavier Dolan
Writer: Xavier Dolan
Year: 2010
Runtime: 1h 41m
Genre: Drama, Romance
Country: France
Watch: YouTube, DVD

Perhaps the most mainstream film of this bunch, Heartbeats carries itself with subtlety, tenderness, and an almost uncomfortably close intimacy. This beautiful film takes a carefully crafted approach to navigating the uncertainties of love, friendship, gender and sexual fluidity by exploring the complex relationships within an ambiguous love triangle. A small cast in character-centric film, the content itself is somewhat progressive, but breathtaking in its heartfelt simplicity.

Still with me? Good. Let’s challenge your senses a little more.

2. Princess Mononoke

mononoke

Originally: Mononoke-hime
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki, Neil Gaiman (Adapted By)
Year: 1997
Runtime: 2h 14m
Genre: Animation, Action/Adventure, Fantasy
Country: Japan
Watch: DVD, Blu-ray

This anime feature film expresses a deep, theme-laden story through a dichotomous portrayal of beauty and brutality. The plot literalizes the metaphor of industrialization polluting the purity of nature, playing out the struggle on-screen with visual moments that will make your heart drop in your chest. But don’t let me spoil the plot. Experience it yourself. After all, there’s a reason this Studio Ghibli masterpiece has remained popular over the years.

3. The Tenant

tenant

Originally: La locataire
Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, Roland Topor (novel)
Year: 1976
Runtime: 2h 6m
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Horror
Country: France
Watch: Amazon Video, YouTube, DVD

You’ve heard of Rosemary’s Baby, but maybe you haven’t heard of Roman Polanski’s other other, arguably better, psychological horror film, The Tenant? Probably not. But here’s why you should watch it: The storytelling pays incredible attention to detail and the fluid, gradual madness that befalls the protagonist. You won’t even realize how deep into the story you are until the circular plot throws you for a loop with a powerful finale—or is it the beginning?

4. Run Lola Run

lola

Originally: Lola rennt
Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer: Tom Tykwer
Year: 1998
Runtime: 1h 20m
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Country: Germany
Watch: Amazon Video, YouTube, DVD, Blu-ray

A well-known international film popular among American cinephiles, Run Lola Run straddles the line between feature and short film while exploring the surreality of multiple endings. In the story, the protagonist finds herself in a jam, forcing her to make quick decisions, each leading to a cascading series of unforeseen consequences. Lola doesn’t hold your hand along the way, either, creating plenty of material for thought-provoking analysis.

Still there? Great. Let’s move into more obscure territory…

5. Kanal

kanal

AKA: The Sewer
Director:
 Andrzej Wajda
Writer: Jerzy Stefan Stawinski
Year: 1957
Runtime: 1h 31m
Genre: Drama, War
Country: Poland
Watch: DVD

A film by one of the Polish masters, Andrzej Wajda, the predecessor to other Polish greats like Krzysztof Kieslowski and controversial directing great Roman Polanski, Kanal offers a layered retelling of Dante’s Inferno. Set in the sewers of Warsaw in WWII, the surface plot acts as a proxy to express Poland’s struggle to regain its lost identity after the USSR takeover. Bravery, insanity, and tragedy all have their place in this incredible piece of Polish Cold War-era film history.

6. Baraka

baraka

AKA: Baraka – A World Beyond Words
Director:
 Ron Fricke
Writers: Ron Fricke, Mark Magidson, Genevieve Nicholas, Constantine Nicholas, Bob Green
Year: 1992
Runtime: 1h 36m
Genre: Documentary
Country: United States
Watch: Amazon Video, YouTube, DVD, Blu-ray

No, this awe-inspiring documentary has nothing to do with former U.S. President Barack Obama. Rather, it’s a visual record of a day in the history of the world from sunrise to sunset, without any dialogue or narration. In many ways, Baraka is a more of a motion portrait of humankind than a true documentary, but let’s leave that distinction to the film critics. If you love documentaries, or even just love still photography, this often forgotten film should move to the top of your list.

7. The Double Life of Veronique

veronique

Originally: La double vie de Véronique
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Writers: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Year: 1991
Runtime: 1h 38m
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Music
Country: France/Poland
Watch: Amazon Video, DVD, Blu-ray

Kieslowski explores the idea of an individual meeting their doppelganger in a surreal, dramatically emotional film layered with spirituality and ambiguous meaning. This is the film to watch and analyze if you want to get your fingers dirty with film criticism. And if you like Double Life, be sure to check out Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Blue.

Great work! You’ve made it this far. Time to bring out the big guns:

8. Man of Marble

marble

Originally: Czlowiek z marmuru
Director: Andrzej Wajda
Writer: Aleksander Scibor-Rylski
Year: 1977
Runtime: 2h 40m
Genre: Drama
Country: Poland
Watch: DVD, Blu-Ray

A personal favorite of mine, this Polish film (Andrzej Wajda again) requires some historical background knowledge to fully grasp. Essentially, a young film student tracks down an old communist-era hero of the working class, uncovering a long trail of untruths in the process. While watching Man of Marble, keep a keen eye open for how Wajda and Scibo-Rylski dodge the communist censors while simultaneously criticizing that very same institution of censorship with every second of motion picture. And sure, the dramatic leg poses and disco music can certainly be a sensory challenge, but hey, it was over 30 years ago. Those superficial issues aside, the film’s storytelling technique is deceptively deep and intricate, and every act and every line of dialogue comes loaded with subtext and double meaning. For depth in storytelling, it doesn’t get much closer to technical perfection than Wajda’s Man of Marble.

9. A Hole in My Heart

holeinheart

Originally: Ett hål i mitt hjärta
Director: Lukas Moodysson
Writer: Lukas Moodysson
Year: 2004
Runtime: 1h 38m
Genre: Drama
Country: Sweden
Watch: Amazon Video, DVD

Now we’ve arrived to the most obscure, avant-garde point of the article. This film experienced an extremely limited release (1 screen for 2 weeks only), paltry box office returns ($3,306 gross), and no mainstream reception whatsoever (just look at the IMDB rating and Metascore). A Hole in My Heart takes on the unrestrained lust of the pornography industry and peels away the layers to reveal the rot and disgust that lies beneath through visual metaphor and reality TV conventions such as the confession box. Sure, Moodysson’s film can be aesthetically challenging, if not outright bizarre, but simultaneously thoughtful, satirical, and—of all things—incredibly intimate and heartfelt.

Finally, let’s end on a (slightly) more positive note:

10. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

cherbourg

Originally: Les parapluies de Cherbourg
Director: Jacques Demy
Writer: Jacques Demy
Year: 1964
Runtime: 1h 31m
Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Country: France
Watch: Amazon Video, DVD, Blu-ray

This award-winning musical hangs somewhere between the realms of obscurity and cherished history, sweeping Cannes in 1964 but losing out at the 1966 Academy Awards to more mainstream films like The Sound of Music and Doctor Zhivago (yes, THAT Doctor Zhivago). Strange in its vivid colorfulness but drab, unflinchingly realistic portrayal of a romance that doesn’t work out, Umbrellas is nothing short of a filmic experience every cinephile should have. And while you’re at it, maybe you can settle the debate over whether it’s a true musical or really a modern asymmetrical opera.

 

Did you like this list? If so, give me a shout out on Twitter or Facebook and I will write another!

Or pick my brain yourself at Storysci.com.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary film by David Gelb

poster for Minimalist Review of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary film by David GelbBy James Gilmore

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a small film, minimalist in every respect. Tender, intimate, and honest, this documentary demonstrates majestic simplicity. Crisply shot with the Red One and Canon 7D, David Gelb ability to capture compact but meaningful cinematic visuals reveals a subtle storytelling genius. The film’s flavorful imagery all but places each dish onto your watering tongue. Although Jiro lacks the polish of a high-budget studio film, raw elements such as the modest, inconspicuous soundtrack (as minimalist in composition as the movie itself) work in favor of the film instead of against it.

Superficially, Jiro provides an insightful cross-section into the alien microcosm of a world-class sushi chef in Japan and its thematically related orbiting satellites.  But on a deeper, more profound level Gelb’s documentary illuminates the relationships of fathers and sons—and by extension, masters and apprentices—as universal, transcending both culture and context.

Simple, honest, gorgeous. A masterful accomplishment for a young filmmaker, worthy of the praise of foodies and cinephiles alike. Place Jiro Dreams of Sushi on your must-see list—and then plan on going out for sushi.

Rating:  5 / 5

Argo, a film by Ben Affleck

By James Gilmore

Ben Affleck’s Argo takes a clumsy script and transforms it into a seat-riveting filmic experience.  He and his skillful editors successfully impress artificial tension upon the audience in spite of the script’s many shortcomings.  Script problems magnify when translated to the big screen, and such issues become very evident as characters reveal their lives to each other in standalone cutaway scenes that serve no plot purpose.  Affleck’s protagonist character, Tony Mendez, is poorly written, making him too weak and impotent in comparison to his fellow cast members.

Minimalist Review of Argo, a film directed by Ben AffleckThe audience will feel a sudden jolt as they are thrust into and out of a tongue-in-cheek Hollywood sequence that is not in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film, and ultimately comes across as a series of inside jokes among Hollywood types more than a cohesive story segment.  The final confrontation between protagonists and antagonists proves to be the most artificial construct of all, where editing alone creates the tension, not the clash of goal and obstacle, desire and counter-desire.

In short, Ben Affleck should quit acting and direct full-time, but he needs to learn to push the script to a final polish before jumping into making the film itself.  With such spectacular directing talent it is a waste to not use equally judicious judgment in finishing the screenplay, as is evident in both Argo and his feature film directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone.  Still, audiences eagerly await his next work.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Restrepo, a documentary film by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger

by James Gilmore

Restrepo is the first documentary reviewed on this blog (and hopefully not the last) but is worth discussing due to its vigorous storytelling qualities.

Movie poster for Restrepo, a documentary film by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, on Minimalist Reviews.

The film documents the most combat-intensive atmosphere known to US soldiers since Vietnam, wherein American soldiers find themselves engaged in 4-5 firefights a day for 15 unbroken months. Transcending the normal objectivity of the format, Restrepo thrusts the viewer into the startling subjective experiences of young soldiers right from the beginning. Illustrated by intense first-hand footage of combat, poignant interviews, and daily losses and gains, the film recreates the surreal daily life of these soldiers. Footage of “boys being boys” punctuated by ghostly silence and heart-stopping combat. What we see in the often unspoken psychological aftermath of war is devastating.

The filmmakers quickly get a bead on what is human and interesting in the story. These men aren’t just soldiers in another American conflict, but youths who barely understand anything about their own world, let alone the incomprehensible foreignness of the world they have been dropped into. To these young men the war is not about ideology, the fight for freedom or any other such lofty goals. It is about surviving in an alien environment they will never understand.

Restrepo is more emotionally intense than any synthetic war movie. At times it is beyond heart-wrenching. It is ultimately compelling. One of the best military documentaries of the decade.

 

Rating: 5 / 5

The Fighter, a film by David O. Russell

by James Gilmore

Movie poster for The Fighter, a film by David O. Russell, on Minimalist Reviews.

The Fighter is not so much a story about one boxer trying to make his way in the world as a story in which every character is a scrappy fighter in their own respect, each trying to achieve his or her dream in a gritty, realistic world bristling with testosterone and raw emotion, unstained by the airbrushing of Hollywood gloss.

This modern day Cinderella story appears to be about boxing on the surface, an inspiring underdog story about a man who literally never quits. But in truth the film is much, much more. The pseudo-documentary style and directing create an unglamorous world which examines poverty, family, loyalty, love and, of course, boxing, all with a humanistic eye. At the core of the film’s strength is its impressively detailed peek into the complexities of family and family politics.

Acting performances in the film deliver an array of raw emotion in a steady one-two of jabs and thrusts without the forceful injection of artificial drama, while its bold, aggressive characters allow Amy Adams and Christian Bale to thrive in their best acting roles to date—an impressive achievement considering both actors’ extensive experience.

The Fighter, obviously more a labor of love than a labor of money, proves itself to not only be one of the best boxing films ever made, but one of the greatest family dramas of all time.

Rating: 5 / 5