By Roger Costa
If you had to choose this year’s Best Actor so far, you’d definitely have to go with Riz Ahmed. Fresh off his Oscar nomination for last year’s “Sound of Metal”, the versatile actor now portraits another antihero in the musical scene, going through similar health crisis, which easily defines him as one of the most committed artists in the game. With his latest choices, the actor is proving to be conscious and bold at the same time, picking up projects that deals straight forward with timely issues, generously told through inventive cinematic forms. In this intense character study, which he co-wrote along with director Bassam Tariq, he plays an arrogant and very famous Pakistani rapper who is diagnosed with a rare disease, and is confronted by his ego, traumas from the past, his plans for the future and the turbulent relationship with his parents. As he delves on a journey of self-discovery, dealing with his emotional, artistic and physical obstacles, the film makes a powerful statement on racial conflicts of all sorts, affectingly presenting the reactions of being divided or judged by color or race. Masterly structured as a hybrid of drama, urban musical and horror (his memories are depicted as nightmares and hallucinations), Tariq leaves an impressive mark as a first timer, making a confidant, crowd-pleasing feature that will certainly grab audiences by the heart with his humanitarian statement, and Ahmed’s utterly affecting performance.
(Strand Releasing. 9/10. BAM Cinema, Brooklyn, NYC.)
For years now, modern society had adapted itself into relationships via devices, and during the Pandemic it has just gained more relevance and increased its adepts. Charming and irresistibly cynical, Natalie Morales’ eccentric feature debut is a collaborative work between herself and Mark Duplass, who co-wrote the screenplay and stars along with her. She brilliantly digs this moment in history, to create an absorbing portrait of loss, grieving and re-adaptation. As the film opens we are introduced to them as they meet via a video chat, and break the ice to prepare for his first Spanish lesson, paid by his wealthy husband. When tragedy suddenly strikes, they will rely on each other to heal from similar wounds, caused by fate or by human interference. An emphatic love letter to compassion and friendship, this SXSW Award Winner explores their personalities with a fresh sense of enthusiasm and tenderness, while providing a special bond between audience and characters. Sweet and full of life!
(Shout! Studios. 9/10. Angelika Film Center.)
A drug provider is caught amidst a robbery gone wrong, when he becomes attached to one of the young thieves, going on a spiral of violence, betrayal and revenge in this twisted Neo-Noir thriller from director Charles Officer. Gorgeously shot and executed, fast paced, ultra violent and immersive, it brings fine performances from the entire cast, providing convincing and realistic depictions on the Toronto underground criminal activity. Very efficient and unpredictable, it is definitely one of this year’s most accomplished action indie films.
(Vertical Entertainment. 9/10. Village East Cinemas.)
A Swiss banker arrives in Argentina to investigate the disappearance of his partner, and meets up the seductively dangerous world of privilege and political favors in director Andreas Fontana’s beguiling and thought-provoking suspense. Set in the late 70’s as the country would start reacting to the established dictatorship regime, Fontana crafts a sumptuous and mysteriously enigmatic political thriller, confirming him as a promising new filmmaker. An acclaimed selection at Berlin, it brings a powerful and revelatory performance by Fabrizio Rongione, as the banker who serves as a detective on the journey to find the truth about his colleague and the high society’s interests. Precisely told with a magnificently detailed, lush aesthetic, it is a remarkable slow burn thriller.
(MUBI. 9/10. IFC Center.)