Molly’s Game (Film Review) – A Great Directorial Debut For Aaron Sorkin

Molly’s Game is a biographical crime drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. The film is based on the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker. This memoir was written by Molly Bloom who is played by Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game.

The film also stars Jeremy Strong, Joe Keery, Claire Rankin, Graham Greene, Bill Camp, Chris O’Dowd, Brian D’Arcy James, Michael Cera, Kevin Costner and Idris Elba. The story of Molly’s Game focuses on Molly Bloom. She establishes an underground poker empire for Hollywood celebrities, business tycoons, athletes and even the Russian mafia. Molly becomes the target of an FBI investigation due to her illegal acts within this business venture. She enlists the help of lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Molly’s Game

A film such as Molly’s Game is made for me. For one, I love biopics. Indeed, biopics such as Gandhi, Schindler’s List, Malcolm X and Goodfellas are some of my all-time favourite films. Additionally, any biopic related to crime provides a great opportunity for someone to delve into a gritty, complex story. If you had to choose a screenwriter for Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin is a great choice.

Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

While probably most famous for his television work with The West Wing, that was not my introduction to Aaron Sorkin. Instead, it was his work in the film industry that alerted me to his talent as a screenwriter. The Social Network, A Few Good Men, Moneyball and Charlie Wilson’s War made me realise that Sorkin is a cut above a lot of the screenwriters working today. Molly’s Game actually marks the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin. This also peaked my interest in the film.

Still, what really sealed the deal to make Molly’s Game an absolute must see for me was the cast. Clearly, casting Kevin Costner, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba is guaranteed to elevate any film. They all have presence on-screen and have consistently proved to be extremely talented actors. Literally, how could this film be bad? It did not seem possible. I was steadfast in my belief that Molly’s Game would be fantastic.

My Thoughts on Molly’s Game

I was right to think this way. Molly’s Game is absolutely phenomenal. I was mesmerised by the story and the acting from beginning to end. For me, the star of the film is Aaron Sorkin. His writing in the film is fantastic and it gives the film momentum and purpose. The pacing in Molly’s Game was superb and that was mainly down to how quick Sorkin’s dialogue in the film was. It also made a lot of the character interactions in the film very intriguing and gripping.

Idris Elba as Charlie Jaffey and Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

Still, you need great performances from your cast for these scenes to be as enthralling as they are. Thankfully, everyone is great in Molly’s Game and the standout is Jessica Chastain. As it stands right now, she would be guaranteed an Oscar nomination for Best Actress if I had a say. She always brings her best to every film I see her in and this is no different in Molly’s Game. She was masterful in this film. She also had electric chemistry with Idris Elba and their scenes were amongst the best in the film.

Yet, the best scene in Molly’s Game was the one between Jessica Chastain and Kevin Costner. Costner’s role in the film is quite minimal. However, when he is on screen, he has presence. This is no more apparent than his scene with Chastain towards the end of the film. That scene between father and daughter is just sublime and I do not want to give away what happens. All I will say is that certain things which are established in the film come full circle in this scene. When it does, it is very emotional for the characters that Costner and Chastain play in Molly’s Game.

My Final Thoughts on Molly’s Game

I found the character of Molly to be very complex. Jessica Chastain beautifully portrays the depth in this strong-willed character who evokes power and vulnerability in a believable, compelling way. In a lot of ways, the compelling elements of the story in Molly’s Game were ripe for Aaron Sorkin to explore and flesh out. He did this to such a brilliant degree that Molly’s Game is a film that I believe, even at this very early stage, will rank amongst the best films I will see in 2018.

Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom and Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly's Game

I love Molly’s Game. Because the film was first released in 2017, it is eligible for nominations at the Oscars. I pray that it is recognised, especially in the acting categories. At a minimum, it should be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Molly’s Game is the first film I have seen in this Oscar season since Blade Runner 2049 that made me think it deserves a lot of Oscar nominations. I hope the film is appreciated by Academy voters to the extent that I do. Moreover, I hope you love the film as much as I do once you see it. You must see Molly’s Game as soon as you can. I do not believe that you will regret seeing this film.

Stronger (Film Review) – A Moving Performance By Jake Gyllenhaal

Stronger is a biographical drama directed by David Gordon Green. The film stars Clancy Brown, Miranda Richardson, Tatiana Maslany and Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman who loses his legs at the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. After this horrific event, Bauman must adapt to his new life with the help of Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Simultaneously, he struggles to cope with PTSD and depression from the terrorist attack he was a victim of.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Stronger

Stronger quickly became one of my most anticipated films to see during award season because of Jake Gyllenhaal. Without a doubt, he is one of my favourite actors working today. He has brought his best to every film that I have seen him in. Moreover, I find it remarkable that he did not receive Oscar nominations for his work in Nightcrawler and Nocturnal Animals.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman in Stronger

Because of my adoration for his work, I expected nothing less than a stellar performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Clearly, the emotional source material he was working with provided a great opportunity for him to showcase his range as an actor. Buzz around Stronger has been high since its premiere at Toronto Film Festival back in September 2017. I hoped that the film would live up to the hype.

My Thoughts on Stronger

Stronger is an emotional film which, at is core, has a powerful central performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Once again, he proves his talent as an actor and that he is one of the best working today. While likely that, once again, he will probably go unnoticed when it comes to an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, his work in Stronger should not be forgotten.

Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley in Stronger

Aside from an individual standpoint, Jake Gyllenhaal also works well off the performance given by Tatiana Maslany in Stronger. I liked the complexity of the relationship their characters had. It was anything but straightforward when it came to their commitment for one another. Indeed, one scene where Jeff completely loses it in a car with her and they berate each other showcased this. It also showed the ability of Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany as actors when it came to portraying raw emotion.

Stronger Is Never Brash, Crude Or A Cliché

Yet, Jake Gyllenhaal is also great in the more understated moments of his performance. This is very apparent when he showcases the depression and PTSD his character is going through that seem to be ignored by his family. In fact, I would argue that the majority of Stronger is very understated. It is never brash and the film takes its time but it is engaging throughout.

Tatiana Maslany as Erin Hurley and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman in Stronger

Stronger is never over the top or clichéd either. Certainly, it would be very easy for this story to be told in a less mature way. However, Stronger is very mature which makes the more graphic scenes that much more affecting. Indeed, a scene which brutally depicts the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing is very tough to watch. Moreover, having that scene intertwine with seeing Jeff Bauman at his lowest point of recovery was heart-breaking. He was reliving that traumatic experience in a horrible situation and it was not easy to watch.

Due to the tough, depressing subject matter, I will not be eager to watch Stronger multiple times. However, it is a film you need to see just for the magnificent performance by Jake Gyllenhaal alone. Moreover, the film does showcase the human spirit, especially with its ending which leaves you with a feeling of hope. While I do not feel that Stronger will get a lot of award recognition, it does rank amongst the more emotionally affecting films I have seen in 2017.

Battle of the Sexes (Film Review) – Emma Stone’s Best Performance Yet

Battle of the Sexes is a biographical sports film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. The film stars Austin Stowell, Elisabeth Shue, Bill PullmanAndrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Steve Carell and Emma Stone.

Battle of the Sexes is loosely based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The film also explores the personal situations of both King and Riggs who struggle to deal with their public and private lives both before and during the buildup to the tennis match.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival back in September 2017. Since then, the film has been receiving a lot of praise, especially when it comes to Emma Stone’s performance. I was first introduced to Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man. I loved her in that film and she has continued to impress me with her acting ability ever since.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes

Whether its Superbad, Birdman, The Help, Crazy Stupid Love or La La Land, Emma Stone is establishing herself through her performances as one of the best talents working in the film industry today. Some critics even described her performance in Battle of the Sexes as the best of her career. Consequently, I could not wait to see whether that was true for myself in the film.

I was also looking forward to seeing Steve Carell continue to delve into the dramatic side of acting. Certainly, everyone knows Steve Carell through his brilliant comedic work in films such as Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Still, Carell has really impressed me with his dramatic roles in films such as Foxcatcher and The Big Short. I wanted to see more of this side of Steve Carell’s acting prowess in Battle of the Sexes.

Based on the trailers, I expected a blend of comedy and drama with Steve Carell’s depiction of Bobby Riggs. Conversely, I believed that Emma Stone’s portrayal of Billie Jean King would be purely dramatic. My overall hope was that Battle of the Sexes would be a film that I considered to be worthy of nominations at the Oscars.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Andrea Riseborough as Marilyn Barnett in Battle of the Sexes

My Thoughts on Battle of the Sexes

While that wish was not met, Battle of the Sexes is a decent film that is elevated by great performances. The best of these performances comes from Emma Stone who steals the film. She is absolutely brilliant as Billie Jean King and, like many film critics, I strongly believe that this is the best performance she has ever given in a film. She lost herself in the role and the struggles her character went through in the film were very affecting.

I also really liked Steve Carell and Sarah Silverman in the film. Silverman provided the understated comedic moments in Battle of the Sexes through her character’s personality. I always like that type of humour in films. The comedic moments that involved Steve Carell were more over the top but that was the nature of Bobby Riggs in the film. He was a larger than life personality and Carell did a good job at portraying this. Yet, he also had a great dramatic scene with his wife that showed the vulnerable side of Bobby Riggs. It was actually one of my favourite scenes in Battle of the Sexes.

Battle of the Sexes Is Not Best Picture Worthy

However, I would argue that the overall film does not match the quality of the performances in it. Battle of the Sexes is not a great film worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. For me, the film takes a while to find its footing. Indeed, I much preferred the second half of the film to the first. More of the great moments in the film, such as Bobby Riggs’ dramatic scene with his wife, happened in the second half.

Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes

The lack of consistency meant that I was not captivated by the story of the film from beginning to end. Still, I will say that Battle of the Sexes is a very timely film. Some of the themes and messages of the film are very resonant for the current climate we are living in. As a result, this does make Battle of the Sexes necessary viewing. If you have the time, give this film a chance because you may like it more than I did.

Overall, Battle of the Sexes has great performances in it. However, the film itself does not match the quality of those performances. Emma Stone may get an Oscar nomination for Best Actress but that is as many Oscar nominations as I would give to Battle of the Sexes. You may feel different if you see the film though.

Hidden Figures (Film Review) – Inspirational and Timely

Hidden Figures is a biographical drama directed by Theodore Melfi and stars Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe. The story is based on the non-fiction book of the same name about African-American female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The film focuses on Katherine Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Monáe) who worked at NASA at a time of segregation, racism and the Civil Rights Movement.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures was the last of the Oscar nominated films that I had yet to see and I was looking forward to seeing it. A lot of that was down to the cast involved. Certainly, Octavia Spencer has remained fresh in mind ever since I saw The Help, which is a phenomenal film. Moreover, Kevin Costner is always a solid actor to have in any film and to see Mahershala Ali after his win at the Oscars intrigued me. The story itself is also really interesting and I love to learn about events and stories I never knew about before.

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe in Hidden Figures

My Thoughts on Hidden Figures

I found Hidden Figures to be a very good film that is inspirational and very timely. The story is told with a lot of respect and is incredibly relevant to what is going on in the world today. A big reason why I liked the film was the performances of the Henson, Spencer and Monáe. They had really good chemistry when they were on screen together and their individual arcs in Hidden Figures were also very engaging and, at times, very moving.

The supporting cast also gave strong performances. Mahershala Ali played his role well even though it probably wasn’t as layered as his performance in Moonlight. Kevin Costner fitted perfectly into Hidden Figures. His look and demeanour just oozes 1960s United States. Indeed, he has experience of that with past roles in films set in the same time period such as JFK and Thirteen Days.

Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures

Another element of Hidden Figures that I really liked was the score which was composed by Hans Zimmer. It really complemented the tone of the film and it is completely deserving of the Golden Globe nomination it received for Best Original Score. Additionally, the Oscar nominations this film received in categories such as Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer were deserved too.

There is a lot to like about Hidden Figures and I think it is necessary viewing. The issues and themes within this inspirational story need to be experienced by a wider audience. Thankfully, the fact that certain charities, institutions, individuals and independent businesses have screened this film for free means that more people will experience Hidden Figures and understand its importance.

Hacksaw Ridge (Film Review) – A Brutal Depiction of War

Hacksaw Ridge is a biographical war drama directed by Mel Gibson and stars Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn in supporting roles and Andrew Garfield in the lead role. The story of this film is set during World War II (WW2) and focuses on Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an American combat medic who refused to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. He eventually become the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Hacksaw Ridge

I have been looking forward to Hacksaw Ridge for a while due to the fact that it has received a lot of buzz since it was released in the United States last November. Additionally, the cast is extremely talented and the film has garnered a few Oscar nominations including Best Actor for Andrew Garfield, Best Picture and Best Director for Mel Gibson which itself was controversial. Certainly, Mel Gibson has a very chequered past and the criticism he received for his past actions was deserved.

Nevertheless, despite what you may think of Mel Gibson as a person, you cannot deny that he is an extremely talented director and actor. Indeed, he was the man responsible for creating my favourite film of all time; Braveheart. My love for that film meant that Hacksaw Ridge immediately became one of my most anticipated films during this awards season. If Gibson recaptured any of the magic of Braveheart, then I was in store for a great film.

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn on the set of Hacksaw Ridge

My Thoughts on Hacksaw Ridge

To my delight, Hacksaw Ridge met my expectations. Truly, the actions scenes in Hacksaw Ridge depict conflict during WW2 in such a raw and savage way that it evoked my experience of watching Saving Private Ryan for the first time. In fact, I would argue that this is the best war film made since Saving Private Ryan.

A big reason why this is the case is down to the way in which Gibson structured this film. The film can be split into two parts. The first half of Hacksaw Ridge is essentially set-up for Doss’ actions in the Battle of Okinawa in the second half of the film. This structure allows us to get emotionally attached to the characters and understand why Garfield’s character has the philosophy that he has. As a result, we have a lot of pay-off in the action-packed second half of the film which is tense, uncompromising and emotional.

Indeed, the man sitting next to my right was having a visceral reaction to what was happening on the screen in the second half of the film. This is a credit to Mel Gibson who did a fantastic job in directing Hacksaw Ridge and also bringing out great performances from the cast. Certainly, Andrew Garfield is fantastic in the lead role and the supporting cast also elevated the quality of the film.

Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge

The Score in Hacksaw Ridge

Another aspect of Hacksaw Ridge which I thought was really good but is seemingly underrated is the score, orchestrated by Rupert Gregson-Williams. For me, the score/soundtrack is one of the most important elements of a film. When the music in a film is good, it vastly improves its quality and makes it more memorable. The score in Hacksaw Ridge, which echoes the music in films such as Kingdom of Heaven and The Last Samurai, achieves this feat. In fact, I listened to the score immediately after I saw Hacksaw Ridge and it cemented my belief that this score is being overlooked as being one of the strongest aspects of the film.

In fact, Hacksaw Ridge has a lot of strong aspects which, when combined, make this a film which is worthy of the awards and nominations it has received. Fantastic directing by Mel Gibson, great acting by the cast, a memorable score along with the best depiction of war since Saving Private Ryan make Hacksaw Ridge the most well-done war film since Saving Private Ryan and something you must see as soon as possible.

Jackie (Film Review) – An Overbearing Snoozefest

Jackie is a biographical drama directed by Pablo Larrain and stars Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, John Hurt and Natalie Portman who herself plays Jackie Kennedy, the wife of President John F. Kennedy (JFK). The story of the film focuses on Jackie Kennedy’s life in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband in 1963.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Jackie

Natalie Portman’s performance as Jackie Kennedy has received a lot of praise from critics and she is even nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars. This was a reason why I wanted to see Jackie in addition to my interest in the assassination of JFK. But, admittedly, I heard a lot of mixed opinions about the film which tempered my expectations about how good the film would be. Usually, when I go into a film with low or balanced expectations, I come out of the film pleasantly surprised and liking it much more than I thought I would.

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy

My Thoughts on Jackie

This was not the case with Jackie. While I do like parts of this film, I found this film to be boring and really overbearing, particularly with the score which I thought was awful. Truly, the bombastic nature of the music in Jackie was completely wrong and clashed with the sombre tone of the film.

I also thought that Peter Sarsgaard was completely miscast as Bobby Kennedy. I did not buy him as JFK’s brother at all and that was a real shame because, apart from Sarsgaard, I thought the acting in this film was good. Certainly, Portman, while a bit over-the-top at times, was good in the iconic role of Jackie Kennedy. I thought the scenes between her and John Hurt were the most interesting scenes of the film.

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie

However, I feel that a big part of why I liked the scenes with John Hurt above all the rest was down to the fact that I saw Jackie a day or so after he tragically passed away and it was really nice to see him in this film. Still, why I concede that I may be biased towards these scenes because of my sad feelings towards the death of John Hurt, they did give Jackie Kennedy depth as a character in this film.

Nevertheless, this does not compensate for the major problems I have with Jackie in terms of its awful score which clashes with the tone of the film. It just added to an overbearing film with a poor casting choice for Bobby Kennedy and an occasional over-the-top but nevertheless good performance by Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy. While I enjoyed some scenes, Jackie was a bit of a slog to get through. It is not something I shall revisit.

Sully (Film Review) – A Well-Crafted Film About Heroism

Sully is a biographical drama directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney and Tom Hanks. Hanks plays Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who performed the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009 in which all 155 passengers and crew survived. The story of this film focuses on the landing as well as the subsequent publicity and investigation and how it impacted Sullenberger.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Sully

I remember when this event happened and the intense media coverage surrounding it. It was dubbed as the “Miracle on the Hudson” and I was interested to see if this film could effectively tell this story. My confidence about how good Sully would be was boosted thanks to the talented people involved in the making of this film. Certainly, Clint Eastwood has proven what a great director he is in addition to his prowess as an actor.

Tom Hanks in Sully

Films he has directed such as Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino among many others prove that he is a force to be reckoned with when telling stories. Additionally, having Tom Hanks is enough to give any film a chance of being great. As you can see, this film had a lot going for it. An interesting true-life story, a great director and a great actor in the lead role meant that Sully had all the right ingredients to be good.

My Thoughts on Sully

I am happy to say that Sully does not disappoint. This is a good film for several reasons. For me personally, the main reason why this film is good is because it is has been crafted very well. Indeed, Sully is paced well thanks to the non-linear storytelling and the running time is perfect.

The film does not drag and I give a lot of credit to Eastwood for telling this story in such a way that you are always connected to the story and never feel bored. I also liked how Sully celebrates the heroic acts of normal people and how people can come together in difficult situations.

Clint Eastwood and Aaron Eckhart in Sully

Another great strength of Sully was the performances. Certainly, Hanks is very good in the lead but, for me, Aaron Eckhart gave my favourite performance in this film. He provides levity in what is a very serious film, especially as it brings up issues such as PTSD. You need Eckhart’s character, who was the co-pilot to Sullenberger, to bring some light relief and comedic moments which gives the film a soul.

Overall, all of the talent involved come together to make a very good film which tells an uplifting story about the heroism of normal people. Eastwood effectively directs the film and tells the story in such a way that you are constantly engaged in the story while Hanks and Eckhart give good performances which, in the end, makes Sully a very worthwhile film to see.

A United Kingdom (Film Review) – A Likeable Film About Love

A United Kingdom is a biographical romantic drama directed by Amma Asante which stares David Oyelowo as Sir Seretse Khama, Prince of Bechuanaland (Botswana), and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams Khama. The story is based on the true-life events detailing the interracial marriage between Seretse and Ruth in 1948 which at the time was highly controversial. They must defy the social and political unrest both in the United Kingdom and South Africa to stay together and lead Bechuanaland to independence.

My Knowledge and Expectation of A United Kingdom

I was going into A United Kingdom expecting, at the very least, good performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They have proven in the past that they are great actors capable of delivering performances with great range and emotion. Certainly, Oyelowo was great in Selma and in Queen of Katwe which I recently reviewed.

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom

Rosamund Pike herself gave a chilling performance in Gone Girl which really announced her to a wider audience as being a talented actress. Because of this, I was looking forward to seeing if this film would deliver good performances as well as deliver on the promise of giving us an uplifting story which was advertised in the trailers.

My Thoughts on A United Kingdom

On the whole, I would say that A United Kingdom does achieve this. It has its flaws but it is a very decent, likeable film about love. What I liked most about the film was the relationship between Seretse and Ruth and that is solely down to the performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They really give A United Kingdom a soul and it was nice to see Amma Asante bring the story about this couple to life. The supporting cast were good too but Oyelowo and Pike were the standouts and Asante deserves credit for crafting the film around them.

Jack Davenport and Tom Felton in A United Kingdom

However, as I said, A United Kingdom has flaws. I felt that the first act, which focused on Seretse and Ruth’s blossoming relationship, was a bit rushed in its pacing. I would have liked to spend a bit more time focusing on their initial relationship. You can see that the film wants to get to the main story-line, which was their struggle of staying together and ruling Bechuanaland, as soon as possible.

Still, once we get there, A United Kingdom really finds its footing and delivers a captivating story about how their marriage was consistently hindered in the face of corrupt politics. Overall, while it has some flaws in its first act, A United Kingdom is a very decent film which is very easy to like and admire thanks to the good performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike and its uplifting message.

Queen of Katwe (Film Review) – A Feel Good Film with Great Performances

Queen of Katwe is a biographical sports drama directed by Mira Nair, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga. Nalwanga makes her feature film debut in Queen of Katwe and stars as Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in Katwe which is the largest slum in Kampala.

This film tells the true story of Mutesi who learns to play chess and reaches such a high level that she could become a Woman Candidate Master and escape from poverty and the harshness of life in Katwe for herself and her family. Nyong’o stars as the mother of Mutesi while Oyelowo plays the role of Robert Katende, Mutesi’s chess coach.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Queen of Katwe

My interest in seeing this film was largely down to the impressive cast. Certainly, Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo are highly talented and have been brilliant in other films, especially Oyelowo who was fantastic in The Butler and in portraying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. Additionally, this film had been receiving critical praise prior to its release which only served to enhance my anticipation and give me a sense that Queen of Katwe was, at the very least, going to be good.

Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi in Queen of Katwe

My Thoughts on Queen of Katwe

I am pleased to say that Queen of Katwe is a very good film and this is largely down to the excellent performances. Madina Nalwanga is really good which is quite remarkable considering that this is her feature film debut. She gives a performance beyond her years and I hope to see more of her in the future. Nevertheless, while Nalwanga is really good, Nyong’o and Oyelowo are the stars of this film. They give the film class and help to captivate the audience and make them become emotionally invested in a story which has a good balance of dramatic and light-hearted moments.

Moreover, the themes which are present in Queen of Katwe help to make this a feel-good film which is something we all need considering everything that has happened in the world recently. Evidently, there a lot of good things in this film. However, if I was to pick out one thing that I think could have been improved it would be the running time. This film did feel a bit too long and I feel that certain things could have been trimmed and cut to reduce the running time by 10-15 minutes. This would have made Queen of Katwe tighter in its storytelling.

Madina Nalwanga and Lupita Nyong'o in Queen of Katwe

Still, this is a small, personal negative which does not take from the overall quality of the film. Certainly, Queen of Katwe is one of this year’s more uplifting films with excellent performances by Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, a really good debut by Madina Nalwanga and a positive message is showcased at a time of negativity. If you are looking for a film which will inspire you and improve your mood, then Queen of Katwe will certainly do the job.