I caught two films last night, Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Nate Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation.
A siege mentality runs through both pictures. It’s difficult to fault Rogue One when looking at it as a piece of popcorn entertainment. It does everything it sets out to do well, with it easy to ignore flawed computer generated imagery and a far-too generous running time when the immediate instance of the film is so engrossing. I don’t personally appreciate Edwards’ directorial style as much as I do that of J.J. Abrams, but it’s a solid affair and a worthy addition to the Star Wars filmic canon.
It’s been a strong year for the portrayal of the black experience in popular culture. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad to Marvel’s Luke Cage were staples of the discourse surrounding literature and television, while much-lauded audio works from Frank Ocean and Beyonce were duly praised as best of field. While Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight heads up ‘best of’ lists around the world much of the hype that came with the Sundance premiere of The Birth Of A Nation appears to have faltered following a number of murky revelations emerging concerning the director’s past. Nonetheless as a cinematic experience it remains a powerful piece of work, with anger running through its veins, and plays like something of a kindred spirit to Roman Polanski’s infamous Macbeth.
Both Rogue One and The Birth Of A Nation recall Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle Of Algiers, the ultimate example of guerrila warfare on-screen, with good people drawn to do bad things in the name of a cause that they believe in. Reframing such well-worn “genres” as the slave picture and Star Wars as dogged war flicks makes for compelling, successful cinema in both cases.