Bad Boys for Life
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The best movie that DW has been in, that no one has ever heard of.
Its simply put, a very important movie to see...
This is one of many white savior films that only get more irksome as we move further away the 20th century and see films made by African-Americans dealing with race relations issues from their perspective being released. This film is one of the worst offenders as we view the life and death of interesting political figure Steve Biko through the eyes of a dull white man who takes a lot of credit for his writing about the events he witnessed. The film was directed by one of my least favorite directors, Richard Attenborough, whose films all have a sense of worthiness without ever really commenting on the sometimes controversial issues they focus on in addition to being far too long. This, much like Gandhi (1982), is one to miss as it would be more rewarding to watch a documentary about Biko's life than a dull, unfunny slog.
South African journalist Donald Woods, Kevin Kline, befriends black activist Steve Biko, Denzel Washington, and attempts to aid him in his efforts to set up facilities that will help to educate young black children and improve the wellbeing of all blacks. Woods is shocked and devastated when Biko dies but is further worried when he realizes that the government orchestrated the murder of Biko. He decides that he must reveal the information he knows to the world but will struggle to get out of his country because the government's increased surveillance over him. He eventually does manage to escape after a comical series of events and his whistleblowing helps to publicize issues in their country.
What irritated me immediately was the fact that we are presented with a main character who has lived in South Africa his entire life and yet appears completely unaware of the fact that the blacks live in poorer conditions than the whites. This serves to present our main character as an ignorant saint not a person who was unknowingly supporting the system. This makes his transformation less interesting because he is painted as the sort of person who has no external concerns related to adopting these views but it also made it difficult to believe him as a character and because the entire story is presented from his view the story as a whole seemed contrived. The screenwriters didn't present either Woods or Biko as more than a collection of stereotypes forced onto men that we are meant to see as fundamentally good and even actors as talented as Kline and Washington fail to make anything that feels genuine out of these thinly written figures.
The second half of the film annoyed me equally as it is mostly taken up with slapstick humor as Woods escapes the country. The gag about Woods dressing up as a priest was everything that people don't like about British prestige cinema as it is a terrifically unfunny joke that they keep trying to force down your throat with customary British politeness. My least favorite character in the film, Woods' wife Wendy, is also brought to the forefront in these later scenes as she gets moments to play the most stoic of wives as her husband does the right thing. Penelope Wilton's performance in the role is simply dreadful as she puts on a horrible high pitched voice that turns off audiences with it's lack of focus and total devotion to appearing as the perfect wife figure. It is hard to feel the sort of excitement that the film tries to inspire in you in it's final moments as you simply feel glad that the film is close to ending.
I wouldn't recommend that anybody see this film despite it's high pedigree because I feel like there is just too much wrong with it. Stodgy biopics often feature great production values and this one is no exception but the thudding and often dull John Briley screenplay and Attenborough's sickeningly tasteful direction prevent those impressive technical elements from coming to the fore. I will explore more of Attenborough's filmography in the future and I hope to see something that I can appreciate in Young Winston (1972), A Bridge Too Far (1977) and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969) all of which received a relative degree of critical acclaim.
The best inspiring movie ever made! With the best movie character ever portrayed: Denzel Washington as Steve Biko!
Excellent, riveting film.
One of the best movies by far. Outstanding story which is true and highly inspirational.
This went on a bit too long for my liking, and I think Denzel Washington was a bit underused. Still, this movie is really well done and very informative. All the performances are top notch! It's not something I could watch over and over again, but it is worth sitting through at least once.
Well directed, accurate and with a great performance from Denzel Washington. The film could have benefited from more of an exploration of Biko's character and ideas
'Cry Freedom' can't decide if it wants to be a social comentary or an adventure movie, but it has beautiful cinematography and a remarkable performance from Denzel Washington.
Good flick. Both Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington give intense performances, but it's really Denzel that shines in this movie for this is truly his breakout performance that earned him his first Oscar nomination.