Directors on Directors
Helmers put the work of contending directors under the magnifying glass, analyzing the efforts of this year’s awards hopefuls.
Helmers put the work of contending directors under the magnifying glass, analyzing the efforts of this year’s awards hopefuls.
John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” artfully exploits the monster/horror genre and all its tropes to extraordinary and unexpected effect. He puts us in a world of sound, defined by quiet, a place of terror defined by the vibrancy of its characters, and ultimately a story about family in the face of death.
Krasinski and Emily Blunt’s portrayal of parents willing to sacrifice everything for their children’s survival ignites something relatable in us all. They manage to depict characters ferociously trying to protect and provide in a time of agonizing uncertainty, almost without saying a word.
Just as William Friedkin redefined the police chase through the performance of Gene Hackman as he pounded on the steering wheel, Krasinski offers us entree to his story through the eyes of the enormously gifted Blunt, and in so doing fashions an emotional story of family crisis from the pieces of a monster thriller. In short, he transcends the genre through the power of performance.
From its breathless opening to the stunning fade to black at the end, the film is an inventive, deliberately crafted piece of art that functions also as entertainment. The acting is impeccable and clearly cut with a discerning eye for performance. Its taut, disciplined 90-minute running time, attention to detail and skillful use of tension respect the audience at every turn. It is a legitimately frightening, sublimely simple and thrilling experience of dread and suspense.
The storytelling is highly visual and Krasinski’s work doesn’t feel like that of an actor tentatively shuffling around behind the camera, but rather that of a sure-footed general, commandingly ushering the audience through each twist and turn. Even more impressive, in Krasinski’s deft hands, “A Quiet Place” becomes a monster movie not about monsters, but about humanity itself.
Ben Affleck directed “The Town,” “Gone Baby Gone,” “Live by Night” and “Argo,” for which he won Golden Globe, DGA and BAFTA awards for directing.
You’re well familiar with poetic justice. How about hilarious justice?
Remember the end of “The French Connection” where the villain just completely got away with it? Well, there was Dick Cheney slipping out the door of history with all those high and low crimes in his wake, when suddenly, there’s Adam McKay’s really cool hand on his shoulder. The jig is finally up for Dick.
Because, as the film’s opening crawl states with perfect comedy timing:
“The following is a true story. Or as true as it can be given that Dick Cheney is known as one of the most secretive leaders in recent history. But we did our fucking best.”
You can take that mission statement to the bank, because once again
McKay has accomplished an impossible task of truth-telling, by making lunch out of the fourth wall and blowing up the roof. Nobody ever dug out the truth of an American Horror Story and rendered it with more dedication and skill.
Seeing it is a full-out emotional experience. You can be excused your tears as you take in the enormity of the evil. You will marvel that this is a comedy from the very beginning to its several ends.
And I think because of this film, because of the bewildering times we live in, and because of the outrage each engenders, you will finally experience a pounding love of country.
James L. Brooks won the Academy Award for directing “Terms of Endearment,” and was nominated for directing “Broadcast News.” He also created the TV series “Taxi” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
All roads lead to “Roma,” as the saying goes. But the most successful, the most heartening of those roads is the one Alfonso took: after the enormous critical and box office triumph of “Gravity,” Alfonso was in a perfect position to do whatever he wanted. He could have commanded life-setting paydays to helm any or all superhero stories, he could have decided to work with the biggest stars or tackle a blank-check epic full of color and bombast.
And he chose “Roma.” A black-and-white, minute re-creation of a Mexico that faded, that disappeared after the massive earthquake in 1985 (unnoticed by most, several blocks of the city were re-created, cars, avenues, stores and all on a backlot set built for the film) and the story of an unsung hero in a middle-class family with no great anecdote or particular agency in the large movements of history in Mexico.
He chose to make an epic effort to tell an intimate story. He made a conscious effort to tell this story devoid of the trappings of Aristotelian three-act structure but he did so with what is, to date, his most precise, his most breathtaking use of cinema as a language and a medium.
He chose wisely. And to me this is the confirmation of his spirit — one that he has demonstrated by going back and doing “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and will do again in the future. In these, our troubled times, he speaks about characters that are invisible and dramas that go unspoken, and thus he provides us with the most urgent of antidotes: empathy.
Guillermo del Toro won the directing Oscar for “The Shape of Water.” His other films include “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy,” “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pacific Rim.”
We don’t know Steve McQueen. We thought we did, but we never did.
We thought his stunning film “Hunger,” about the 1981 hunger strike of an Irish Republican Army militant, marked the debut of a filmmaker steeping himself in politics and patriarchy. We expected more of that. Then he turned up with “Shame,” a bold contemporary drama chronicling family fracture and sexual addiction. Then, a sharp left turn and deep dive into African-American chattel slavery in “12 Years a Slave.” Now on a completely different road with his current film “Widows,” we’re immersed in a big heist laced with emotional nuance and social commentary rarely seen in genre films.
And so it’s official. We don’t know Steve McQueen at all. And that is one of the things that excites me about him most. With powerful explorations of beauty and bravery, horror and honor, he examines the desire within each of us to transcend where we are to get to where we want to be. His films vibrate with a wonderful restlessness as characters struggle against their circumstances. You remember them for how they move from a fixed place, push forward with all their might and never give up through every frame, scene, sequence and act. They all want more. Maybe this is something Mr. McQueen has in common with his characters. Maybe. Maybe not. We really don’t know for sure. And that’s an infinitely good thing. May this incredible director continue to keep us on our toes and curious. Because not knowing where I’m going in a Steve McQueen film is one of my favorite places to be.
Ava DuVernay received an Oscar nomination for her documentary “13th,” and her feature film directing credits include “Selma,” “Middle of Nowhere” and “A Wrinkle in Time.” She’s currently shooting “Central Park Five” for Netflix.
Certain movies simply wash over you. Jason Reitman does not make those movies. He challenges us with characters that are neither good nor evil. Whether they are a tobacco lobbyist or a scandalized presidential candidate. He turns the movie screen into a mirror and asks us to think about ourselves. His shooting style is messy and yet completely in control. A choreographed tangle of characters that vie for our attention with their hopes and their flaws. With “The Front Runner,” Reitman brings this storytelling idea to a crescendo, offering a dozen morally complicated characters to follow, in the tradition of Altman, Richie and Cassavetes.
Ron Howard won the directing Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind.” His other films include “Apollo 13,” “Frost/Nixon,” and “Cinderella Man.”
With “Creed” and now “Black Panther,” Ryan Coogler has shown a singular ability to craft popular entertainments with no dilution of his personal voice or artistry.
Though they are very different animals, the personal vision that drove the focused fury of “Fruitvale Station” is no less present in “Black Panther.” Just as with his debut feature, on every single level Ryan has engaged the superhero genre and made it speak with his voice. I’m still in awe of the visual storytelling both in massive action scenes and small personal moments that are the film’s heart. The pathos and empathy Ryan works into Michael B. Jordan’s villain Killmonger makes the word “villain” reductive. To do all this and still deliver a grand entertainment that connects with audiences on such a scale is no small feat.
Big or small, his films are powerful because they are personal expressions that come straight from his heart. We’re very lucky to have Ryan Coogler making movies.
Rian Johnson’s films include “Brick,” “Looper” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
What struck me deeply about Rob Marshall’s direction was that every element was infused with tremendous care and love. I found myself swept up in the fullness of his filmmaking: It lifts you up and immerses you in another world — a world where everything is possible.
He created a realm where you can fall into a bathtub and enter another dimension. You hop into a world of 2D animation that reminds you of the past, yet is transcendently new. The movie has given you the vocabulary for this sort of possibility, so you are fully prepared for it, and still, it is the most wonderful surprise.
A proud part of its lineage that stands completely on its own, the movie will introduce Mary Poppins to a new generation. Emily Blunt is astonishing — it’s striking how many things she’s good at — and they are all on full display. And this kid who plays the lamplighter — Lin-Manuel Miranda — he slid down the banister like he had been doing it his entire life. He might have been born on stage, but he is totally at home on screen. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer reminded us of the power of family, and they infused each moment with truth. Everyone in this cast was allowed to do the thing that they do incredibly well and then, all of the sudden, stun you by showing another side of themselves.
The movie lets you be a child again. It connected me to a sense of wonder that plasters a smile on your face. What a gift Rob has given us all. I found myself bursting with gratitude when I was watching it. What a rare and marvelous thing.
Thomas Kail won the Tony directing award for “Hamilton” and an Emmy for directing Fox’s “Grease: Live.”
In “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Marielle Heller creates a leading lady we rarely see in film. What I love most about the character (and in ironic contrast to the title) is she never says “I’m sorry.” As a woman I felt a warm pride in the way the film created such a memorable, engrossing character without compromising her into familiar feminine tropes. It would have been so easy to “clean her up,” or taint her with any of the superficial characteristics we as women are constantly pressured to accept. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Lee’s journey would have been so much easier if she would have just given in, and been “nice,” or worn pretty clothes, or acted more like a lady. I love that she didn’t do any of that, and love this film for showing us how truly memorable and engrossing a character like that can be.
Melissa McCarthy’s performance in the film changes the cinematic landscape for women. It absolutely floored me. The way she so fully occupies this role, one that had up until now been reserved for male actors, stakes a powerful claim for women that cannot be denied. It is because her character is never portrayed as a flawed woman, for which we are taught to only feel shame or embarrassment. Because Mari depicts her journey without judgment, we are able to see her simply as a flawed human being. And that really does change everything.
Everyone who saw “Diary of a Teenage Girl” already knows how great Mari is at mixing drama and comedy to create unapologetically honest stories. I am always shocked and surprised, not so much by the actions of her characters, but in how much affinity I feel for them. Mari is so incredibly adept at creating emotional access into these broken lives that I feel fully connected to them. She navigates us directly into the fault lines of the characters, instead of dancing around them, until we can’t help but accept them. It makes them feel close, and real, and I feel privileged to have spent the time with them.
Haifaa al-Mansour is the first female filmmaker from Saudi Arabia, and the director of “Wadjda,” the first film ever shot in the kingdom. This year she released the films “Mary Shelley” and “Nappily Ever After.”
Three features in, Damien Chazelle has emerged as one of our most exciting and accomplished filmmakers.
His take on Neil Armstrong’s voyage was never going to be a middle-of-the-road affair: Instead he crafted a masterfully staged re-creation of the space program with utterly compelling physical detail and layers of cinematic immersion that command credence and ensure that the radical and intensively subjective nature of Chazelle’s point-of-view comes as a gradually unveiled shock.
By equating our most intimate human moments with the great adventure, the film doesn’t diminish the cosmic, it elevates the earthly. Discussions about the film’s portrayal of the flag on the moon largely missed the point: the choice was not about forms of patriotism, it was about a filmmaker presuming to leap over the collective sense of this great event to land on a genuine understanding of what stepping onto the farthest point of mankind’s reach might have actually felt like to the individual who did it.
No one can know Neil Armstrong’s thoughts as he stood on the moon, but Chazelle commits and the intimacy of his interpretation is plausible and resonant. We rely on, indeed, demand this commitment from our finest storytellers and Damien Chazelle does not let us down.
He has dared to make an introverted film about the most extroverted moment in the history of the world. “First Man’s” true significance, not unlike the momentous events which it dares to interpret, may not come into focus for some time.
A five-time Oscar nominee, Christopher Nolan’s films include “Memento,” “The Dark Knight,” Inception” and “Dunkirk,” for which he was nominated for directing.
I agreed to write something about “Cold War,” but it’s tricky. The movie is so good that it’s hard to write about. You just have to see it. It’s a movie so delicious and beautiful that you don’t want to blink. It’s a movie that teaches you how to make a movie.
Where to start with these perfect little jewels Pawel Pawlikowski is making, first “Ida” and now this one? What explains their power and beauty? Concision, probably. A miracle of cinema too rarely tapped is its ability, through what is not shown and not explained, to create narrative in the mind of the viewer. With surgical precision and no lack of complexity, Pawlikowski follows 15 years of a volatile love story, interwoven with a thorny historical epoch, in just 89 minutes. “Ida,” if you don’t recall, was 82 minutes. These films are both in a hurry and take all the time in the world.
Then there’s the photography — the most dazzling black-and-white photography you’ve ever seen, the camera always in the ripest place, each shot majestically framed. Again, the beauty of concision — the framing often just a fragment of an entire scene or location while brilliantly implying the whole. And he shoots these movies in 1:33. Even when we’ve seen 1:33 pictures our whole lives (everything up to the mid-’50s), the way he uses the format is a revelation — compositions saturated with meaning and splendor, entirely devoid of waste.
If the process of making a film — the screenplay, the direction, the editing — is a constant search for economy, then Pawlikowski is our newest master. He expresses the most, while showing the least. He does what Lubitsch and Wilder kept telling us to do: “Tell them two plus two, but don’t tell them four.” The screenplay and editing are marvels of economy, wit and depth. The casting and staging of the actors, the choice of locations, the use of extras, the sound — all impeccable, utterly believable, human and real. Every flawless frame of “Cold War” leads to the knock-out punch at the end.
I’ve saved the best part for last — it’s a musical. Oh, and yes, there’s some sex.
A two-time Oscar winner for screenwriting, Alexander Payne was nominated for best directing for his work on “Sideways,” “The Descendants” and “Nebraska.”
When we think of world building in modern cinema, a filmmaker’s ability to create realistic whole worlds unlike our own, we most often think about Marvel and “Star Wars” films. But Barry Jenkins builds an incredible world in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The world James Baldwin inhabited, lived in, struggled in, found his epic, rebellious voice in.
The details are impeccable, from the production design and wardrobe, to the performances, to the music and lighting. Even the fading sunlight as Tish and Fonny walk through their neighborhood feels of a different time. And in creating this world, Barry has given his actors the space to live so truthfully in their characters. The performances are stellar. We feel their oppression and suffocation viscerally. We believe their love, their anger, their desperation, their hope. We believe them.
Barry’s vision is so taut and realized, he makes the familiar his own. KiKi Layne and Stephan James across prison glass is a scene we have seen played out many times, but here it felt different and fresh. Colman Domingo holding his pregnant daughter suffering from morning sickness and loneliness. Regina King confronting Fonny’s accuser in Puerto Rico. Brian Tyree Henry haunted by his unjust stint in prison.
But more than anything, in this world Barry has created, black people are beautiful. Stunningly so. The close-ups, man. His love for his people is in every frame. And it is inspiring to watch. I love his worlds.
Gina Prince-Bythewood directed “Beyond the Lights,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Love & Basketball.” She will next direct “The Old Guard,” based on the comic-book series created by Greg Rucka.
Spike Lee is one of our greatest, most important filmmakers (inspiring, surprising and brilliant) due to two things that make any artist great: His voice (like no other) and what he has to say. In a handful of breathtaking minutes of sheer mastery and exhilarating cinema, “BlacKkKlansman” opens with a cascade of glorious, original and profound scenes that immediately and boldly reorient not only the experience of our history, but also the history of our cinema.
First, the film re-presents to us (to be reunderstood) the iconic closing frames of “Gone With the Wind”; followed by the black-and-white instructional film featuring white supremicist Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard, which is a cinematic and historic gem in itself in every important respect, combining orignal and historic footage; followed by amazing hypnotic score that soars over the quintessentially American Rocky Mountains, to a perfectly designed straight down from above frame into which walks the protagonist whose eyes look up at us to silently say everything the film has said and is going to say — with art, soul, attitude, humanity and yes humor amid horror (amazingly and perfectly played by revelation John David Washington).
He takes us with his beautiful “natural” into the meeting with Colorado Spings police chiefs who say that as the Jackie Robinson of cops he must be game to brush off the grotesque, hateful racism that will come at him from inside the department, let alone from outside. This is all told in the singular voice of the filmmaker, with directorial assuredness, verve and meticlous amazing performances, cinematography and personal vision that is pure Spike Lee. It is alive and burning like the best music and films and art. It transcends the truths the film fearlessly dives into by becoming a magnificent work that crackles with human specificity, emotion, music, unstoppable gorgeous momentum, humor, joy, beauty (the sequence of lush portraits among the listeners to Stokley Carmichael) — that all ends with yet another masterful sequence that seamlessly and startlingly takes us from the past world of the true story we have just seen to the undeniable truths we are living today.
The film imparts great exuberance and beauty and hope together with its unflinching story. This is the work of a master — the same one who woke us up to a new moviemaking in 1986 with “She’s Gotta Have It,” again with “Do the Right Thing” and countless times since. “BlacKkKlansman” not only accomplishes the feat of sublime storytelling cinematic truth, it does so while swimming aginst the dark current of hate that occupies its middle, which the film subsequently conquers by committing an act of swaggering art I will enjoy returning to countless times, as I do to the best films that exhilarate and remind me why I’m alive. Thank you, Spike Lee.
David O. Russell has been nominated three times for the directing Oscar, for “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.”
The Greek gods were gifted with immortality and in it they found an overwhelming sense of futility. I remember learning this and thinking, “This is why some of the greatest stories exist? Because a bunch of bored gods decided to f— with humanity in order to escape their own listlessness?”
I’m reminded of this in thinking of Yorgos’ films. In his previous work, Lanthimos, using high concepts and strict codes, fooled around and provoked us silly mortals. “The Favourite” is no different. Yes, it’s his least “conceptual” film, but oddly, the reverberations are still the same. He’s like Zeus got lost undercover and began to marvel at what really makes us human: the things that make us jealous or smile, our moods, our loneliness and the ways in which we manipulate one another. This is the Greek god in our natural element, looking at a mood swing like it’s a bolt of lightning! I love it!
Shooting a lot of this flawlessly period film on 6mm fisheye lenses, Yorgos found a way, that doesn’t feel like a “way” at all, to shoot this austere story with stinging freshness. To call it “modern” is obvious, but the awesome paradox here is that it feels both hyper-modern and absolutely period at the same time. It is camera obscura, realized. It’s Vermeer moving. This not only extends to Ryan’s photography or Powell’s costumes or Crombie’s sets, but also to the incredibly nuanced performances by the cast’s core, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and, of course, Olivia Colman. I felt like I was discovering these actors all over again. I’ve never seen mood swings better portrayed in my life, on screen or not.
The Queen’s bunnies were so important and after the film, I know why. I haven’t stopped thinking about Olivia’s portrayal of the Queen and the women surrounding her since I saw this movie.
I felt, for a second, that I was channeling what those must have felt watching “Barry Lyndon” for the first time, with its use of zooms and contemporary tactics. “The Favourite” is Lanthimos’ best film to date, and I’m excited to see him continue looking to the human mind for his high concepts.
Josh Safdie and his brother Ben co-wrote and co-directed “Good Time,” as well as “Heaven Knows What” and “Daddy Longlegs.” He is in post on “Uncut Gems.”
Two men — one black, the other white, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in a ’62 Cadillac DeVille rolling down a highway debating black culture. So much is explored in “Green Book,” Peter Farrelly’s bromance about Tony Lip, a hunky Bronx-born Italian-American Copacabana bouncer, and Dr. Don Shirley, an erudite, multilingual, closeted gay, classically trained pianist who lives above Carnegie Hall.
Watching this picture as an African-American I was predisposed to think it was going the way of others exploring connections between black and white characters: Oh, here we go, the Magic Negro trope is here again. I could not be more pleasantly surprised and excited to be proven wrong. There is a saying in filmmaking: sometimes what is the most profound thing is to keep it simple.
“Green Book” is simple but honest to the characters and time. Viggo Mortensen, who always embodies a role like a new costume, is amazing as Tony Lip. It’s not just the offhanded way he mouths off Calabrese-inflected Italian, it’s the way he organically brings to life this guy, a man without pretensions. Conversely, Mahershala Ali plays Dr. Don Shirley as a self-made man, who eschews all pretensions of what black men were prejudiced to be defined as. He speaks clearly, does not condone violence or theft. Ali plays Dr. Shirley as a self-modeled man of his times. Fighting against all social norms.
With this picture, Farrelly has evolved into a classic director in the vein of Billy Wilder. The humor is juxtaposed by pathos. Some of the most powerful moments simply seem to happen: black workers down South pausing to view a black man, immaculately suited, stepping out a car driven by a white chauffeur. Or two men in the rain, when one says: “If I’m not white enough, and I’m not black enough, and I’m not man enough, then what am I?” When Tony Lip gets Dr. Shirley out of a dicey situation at a YMCA, he simply tells him, “Don’t worry about it. I’ve been working in clubs in New York City my whole life.
I know it’s … it’s a complicated world.’
Simple but complex. In “Green Book,” the characters are who they are. They don’t change as people; the worlds they embody evolve because these two different men simply become lifelong friends. How profound. How complex.
John Singleton was the first African-American nominated for the directing Oscar, for his 1991 debut, “Boyz N the Hood.” His other films include “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Shaft.”
I love this movie. It feels like a true classic — the kind of movie that is rare nowadays. Remember “To Kill a Mockingbird?” Mimi Leder’s “On the Basis of Sex” reminds me of that — hooking us from the moment the dean of Harvard Law brutally challenges the nine pioneering female first-year students. Mimi peels back the dry world of the law to reveal the personal inner workings of Ruth Bader Ginsburg — what made her tick and what her struggles were, how she found her place in the world and, more importantly, how she changed it.
I have known Mimi from the earliest years of our starting out — she comes to this film with a deep understanding of what striving for justice means. Her strong Jewish family gave her that personal history and connection. From Mimi’s acceptance as the first woman into AFI’s cinematography program to her times as a director at “LA Law” and “ER” and then beyond, she became a master at moving her camera — and drawing out performances of intimate truths.
With her confident and assured hand directing “On the Basis of Sex,” inspired by Justice Ginsburg’s amazing life, Mimi has evolved into a new next level of storyteller of subtle depth and passion. We viscerally feel this love story — the love of the law and the love of a man. We never feel manipulated — because Mimi never allows it to get too sentimental — she always keeps it real.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t cry — I did! I cried about what Ruth had to do to find justice. I cried when Ruth found her voice, and, when against all odds, Ruth won. And along with the rest of the audience, with tears in my eyes, I stood up and cheered.
So, Mimi: “Great film!” “Great timing!” And as Ruth’s daughter says to her mom: “Go kick ass.”
Betty Thomas’ feature directing credits include “Private Parts,” “28 Days Later” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.”
The North American premiere of “A Star Is Born” was like nothing I’d seen before. It wasn’t a normal screening. It was a rock concert. Several times during the movie, the audience cheered and erupted into loud applause. They were, or course, responding to Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s electrifying performances. But something else was at work.
You can’t cheat when you sing. You are either on key or you’re off. There is no subterfuge. The same goes with romance. Watching “A Star Is Born,” I felt I had just witnessed a pure act of cinema where life and a movie’s very own central subject were mirroring themselves through a superb love story. A man inviting a woman into his world.
It’s not easy to make great and convincing love stories these days. We are living in cynical times. There has to be a strong directorial voice behind the camera to be able to bring truth and genuine emotions to the birth of a relationship, without falling into the multiple traps of sentimentalism. The authenticity and generosity in Cooper’s feature are remarkable. “A Star Is Born” is also a stunning exploration of the no man’s land between creativity and the neurosis of self-destruction.
It is hard to believe that this movie is the work of a first-time director. The level of precision of camera work and mise-en-scene are truly impressive. The artistic choices Bradley Cooper made are those of a filmmaker in total control of his medium.
I deeply loved “A Star Is Born.” No doubt for me, this movie marks the birth of a great director.
Denis Villeneuve directed “Blade Runner: 2049,” “Arrival” and “Incendies.” He is in production on an original adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel “Dune.”
It’s been a pleasure to watch my friend Josie Rourke conquer a new medium in film and it make it look easy. I’m sure she shares a great deal of empathy with the lead characters, staking her rightful place in an industry mostly dominated by men. Coming from a life spent in the dark of the theater, it’s an impressive leap to break out of the proscenium arch, even more so when you crack the glass ceiling on the way.
There’s an art to such a seemingly effortless transition. Nothing of note is made on stage or screen without the work of an amazing team, but great teams need great leaders. Rourke has led her cast and crew thrillingly into the breach and achieved a film of huge scope and ambition. This feat would daunt established film directors, let alone someone making their debut.
There are many common threads between her stage and film work. She continues to push for diversity in all areas. The color-blind casting makes the movie feel even more relevant, urgent and contemporary. Mary’s story is a gratifying mirror to the ongoing cultural conversation about women, agency and power, but it’s worth noting that whenever Josie talked to me about this film she framed it as almost a gangster movie, the type that has long been the bastion of men. It’s refreshing then to see the film not just as a period costumer, but almost a female-driven version of “Heat,” complete with a pivotal scene where our opposing forces discover common ground.
That Josie has executed this grand debut with such an impressive diligence and vision (all while pulling down a day job at the Donmar Warehouse), is truly admirable to me. She’s one of those people who can put her mind to anything and I look forward being asked to give my thoughts on her next film, musical, opera, novel, exhibition, political reform or mission to Mars.
Edgar Wright has directed features including “Baby Driver,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End.”