Movie reviews: 'Antigone' a raw, electrifying study of race, poverty, and indifference
Nahema Ricci is seen in the film Antigone. (Association Coopérative des Productions Audio-Visuelles)
ANTIGONE: 4 STARS
In Sophocles’ Greek tragedy “Antigone” the title character is sentenced to be buried alive for not following the laws of the gods. A new, twenty-first century retelling of the story from director Sophie Deraspe recontextualizes the story to comment on the plight of Algerian immigrants in modern day Montreal. In this retelling it’s the legal system that threatens to bury the title character.
Antigone Hipponome (Nahema Ricci), along with brothers Étéocle (Hakim Brahimi) and Polynice (Rawad El-Zein), sister Ismene (Nour Belkhiria) and grandmother Meni (Rachida Oussaada) fled Alegeria after the death of her parents. Settling in Montreal the displaced family creates a new life, ripe with opportunity with Antigone the glue that holds the family together.
A straight-a student and hard worker, she puts her own future at risk when Étéocle is gunned down by police as they arrest repeat offender Polynice on drug charges. Not wanting to lose both brothers— Polynice may be subject to extradition if convicted—Antigone concocts a wild plan that places her in jeopardy.
Canada’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards, “Antigone” is a raw, electrifying study of race, poverty and indifference in the judicial system. Exploring the ancient author’s themes of sacrifice for family, exile, state power, it puts a timely and human face on the hot button topic of how society treats immigrants.
Ricci holds the center of the film, sporting a close-cropped Jean Seberg hairdo that conjures up images of Joan of Arc. Like Joan, Antigone becomes a symbol, a woman who defies the law for something greater. Ricci brings considerable conviction to the role, especially as the legal system’s failures leave her with a growing sense of betrayal.
From its opening images of the title character as a deer-in-the-headlights to its impactful, devastating final shot, “Antigone” is an emotional journey that puts a very human face on the kind of story that plays out in real life almost every day.
SHE NEVER DIED: 3 ½ STARS
“She Never Died,” a feminist riff on the 2015 horror-comedy “He Never Died,” stars Oluniké Adeliyi as Lacey, an indestructible, immortal killing machine whose humanity makes her vulnerable.
Lacey lives on the streets, killing people she figures no one will miss, ie criminals. But she’s not trying to clean up the streets. Far from it. She hunts and kills the baddies for food. She gouges out eyes as entrees, and is always careful to remove the fingers for later. “They fit in my pocket,” she says. “And I need the bone marrow.”
When grizzled Detective Godfrey (Peter MacNeill) gets wind of her abilities—surviving a gunshot to the head—he makes an offer. If she’ll agree to rid the world of the evil brother and sister team of human traffickers (Noah Dalton Danby and Michelle Nolden) he’ll find her a decent place to hang her hat.
She agrees, and with the help of Suzzie (Kiana Madeira), a young streetwise woman rescued from a life of being sold by some very bad men, carnage ensues.
Canadian director Audrey Cummings has made a snazzy horror film with equal parts gore and gags. It’s not a horror comedy so to speak, but thanks to some clever scripting it’s a ton of fun with humor emerging organically out of the unusual situation. Combine that with the film’s brisk pacing and you have a movie that could become a midnight madness favorite.
“She Never Died” relies on some old school special effects to deliver the bloody stuff, but lo fi though they may be, they pack a punch.
The blood and guts are fine, but the movie’s strong point is Adeliyi‘s work as Lacey. Even though she only has a handful of lines the film passes the Bechdel test (the film features women who talk to each other about something other than a man) and proves that Adeliyi doesn’t need pages of dialogue to create a compelling character. When she isn’t in motion, killing the villains, Lacey’s scenes with Suzzie give the film subtext about surviving trauma and the power of community that deepen the story and the characters. Come for the bloodshed, stay for the subtext.
Despite its rather abrupt ending—perhaps it’s meant to whet the appetite for a sequel, but it feels incomplete—“She Never Died” distinguished itself as a good and gory character study with a style and feel all its own.
CODE 8: 3 STARS
The crowd-funded “Code 8” is speculative fiction, set in the future, but addresses real world issues like marginalization and the healthcare crisis.
Robbie Amell is Connor Reed, one of the 4% of the population born with extraordinary powers. Instead of being celebrated, however, Reed and his kind are discriminated against, forced to live in poverty.
Blessed—or cursed, depending on how you look at it—with the ability to generate electricity, Reed lives a quiet life, working in construction. The low profile job keep him off the radar of Agents Park in Davis (Sung Kang and Aaron Abrams), leaders of a militarized police unit, but doesn’t earn enough to pay for his mother‘s (Kari Matchett) mounting hospital bills.
To make some much-needed cash he agrees to expose his abilities to aid crime boss Marcus Sutcliffe (Greg Bryk) and his sadistic henchmen Garrett (Stephen Amell).
The aura of “X-Men” hangs heavy over “Code 8.” Director and co-writer (with Chris Pare) Jeff Chan has recontextualized the idea of superbeings being persecuted for their powers—they don’t wear costumes, have character names like Electro or attend tony private schools—but all roads lead back to artist/co-writer Jack Kirby and writer Stan Lee’s timely take on the mistrust of those seen as different. There’s more grit here and the characters aren’t as showy, they are simply trying to survive in a world that is inhospitable to them.
Chan does a good job balancing the action with ideas, effortlessly mixing and matching real word and sci fi elements to create a movie that has enough to say about the fear of diversity and tolerance to earn a look.
BROTHERHOOD: 3 STARS
Ninety-three years ago Balsam Lake, a long and narrow body of water located in in the City of Kawartha Lakes in Central Ontario, made worldwide headlines when a freak summer storm brought tragedy to a group of men canoeing on its waters. The story, largely forgotten today, is brought back to vivid life in “Brotherhood,” a new film from director Richard Bell.
It’s the year 1926. A group of young men, many teens among them, are spending the hot and steamy July at Long Point Camp on what now might be called an eco-adventure but was then thought of as two weeks of male bonding, canoeing, sing-alongs and character building. Led by Great War veterans Arthur (Brendan Fletcher) and Robert (Brendan Fehr) they head out on a routine expedition in a thirty-foot canoe to gather supplies but capsized off Grand Island. For hours the group, the team leaders and thirteen boys, fought against the cold, unforgiving waters for survival.
“Brotherhood” begins with a buoyant boyhood feel of anticipation. The campers are excited, friendships are building, the tone is very Heritage Minute. From there Bell flashes back and forth from the good times on dry land to the struggle on the open water. It’s an effective treatment that ups the stakes. It allows the viewer get a clear and concise before-and-after look at the boys as they change from young men into adults over the course of one very difficult night. Heroes are formed in adversity and the survivors, just four, become a band of brothers, thrown together by fate.
Along the way the script provides plenty of foreshadowing. People say things like, “a hero is just a man too afraid to run away,” and one even quotes Shakespeare’s famous “Henry V” “For he today that sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother,” speech. It feels heavy handed and melodramatic by times but there is no denying the power of the film’s message of strength by community.