Empire of Light: Directed by Sam Mendes
SYNOPSIS: A love story set in and around an old cinema on the South Coast of England in the 1980s.
Empire of Light had to be one of my most anticipated films of the fall. Sam Mendes is a fabulous director, I loved 1917 and the craft involved, Roger Deakins is one of my favorite cinematographers and of course the cast with Oliva Colman at the helm is absolutely stacked. Movies about movies, like I covered when I talked about The Fabelmans, are some of my favorites. I love when we look at the medium and examine how it can affect people and bring people together no matter what situation we might be in. This had the workings of being one of my favorite films of the year.
There is a lot that was done well here. I will start with the performances. I think Olivia Colman is absolutely stellar here, she shows a range of emotion that is off the charts. This is also an incredibly solid performance from Micheal Ward who is continuing to make waves and become one of the young stars in Hollywood. These two are the emotional backbone of this project and work really well together. We know that Roger Deakins is a legend so therefore, you know the cinematography is going to be something special, and damn does he deliver.
The writing is the biggest struggle that this film has that holds it back from being one of the best films of the year. It is jam packed to the brim with very important ideas and interesting character arcs. That, in this case, is a big problem. The runtime does not give any of the stories their justice and there’s not enough character development to make it feel worth it. We jump around between arcs, we don’t hear about them for awhile and then they just reappear. Too much going on and not enough time to let any of it breathe. Not a good recipe for a film that is completely character based.
Even with all of the inconsistent and highly crammed writing, there is still a lot to take away from this movie, with one theme in particular that I really liked. Movies are for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are, when you walk into a movie theater you sit down and watch as the lights dim. We all get engrossed in a story and leave the hardships of life behind for a few hours. That is what movies are all about. So even though there is a lot of inconsistency, in the writing, I believe that that message was met properly.
FINAL: Empire of Light is a big mixed bag for me. While I really enjoyed the cinematography, the message of how movies bring us all together and some of the stellar performances, I found myself feeling cold and empty toward the characters. Sam Mendes has vision he is going for, but there was too much involved when it comes to character, overall story and conclusion. I wanted to love it much more than I did, but I just couldn’t fully commit to what was being put to screen. Good but had the potential to be great.
15 for Writing: 9
15 for Performances: 13
10 for Entertainment: 7
10 for Direction: 8
10 for Emotions: 7
5 for Cinematography: 5
5 for Score: 4
5 for Pacing: 3
15 for Technical: 11
5 for Rewatchability: 3
5 for Automatic: 5
Empire of Light.: 75/100
Jack Lautaret is a Banana Meter approved film critic, Host of the Jack Lautaret YouTube Channel and writer for Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Online Film and Television Association. Twitter: @JackLautaret