[Early Review] Breakthrough (2019)

or “Not a Great Remake of The Dead Zone”

Director: Roxann Dawson

Cast: Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas, Topher Grace, Mike Colter, Marcel Ruiz, Dennis Haysbert, Sam Trammell

Screenplay: Grant Nieporte

116 mins. Rated PG for thematic content including peril.

 

Breakthrough holds the historical distinction of being the first 20th Century Fox film released under Disney’s ownership. Fun factoid for you.

Breakthrough is based on the true story of John Smith (Marcel Ruiz, TV’s One Day at a Time), a teenager who fell through the icy lake and was without oxygen for an extended period of time. After being brought to the hospital, he was pronounced dead. His mother, Joyce (Chrissy Metz, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, TV’s This is Us) prays to God to help bring back her son, and miraculously, her son’s heart starts beating again, but John is still fighting for his life, and as the community rallies around Joyce and her family, prayer and hope become a fighting force.

I have gotten a lot of flak for my reviews of faith-based films in the past. I go into every film hoping for it to be a winner and I tend to put myself in the mindset of the film, asking “What does this film intend to accomplish?” For horror films, it’s usually to scare the pants off the audience. For comedies, it’s often to brighten someone’s day. It’s important to know a film’s intention before going in. When I see a faith-based film, I expect to have something inspirational or uplifting or at least something that challenges my beliefs to strengthen them. Most of the time, I don’t get that, and a lot of the time, it’s because the film doesn’t pull me in.

Breakthrough is one of the stronger faith-based films in recent years. It didn’t feel, to me, like the first feature film for a director, but it is. Director Roxann Dawson, a veteran of television directing for many years, tackles the subject material rather nicely.

The film’s biggest blunders come from its screenplay from Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds). The script has some of the cringiest dialogue of the year, but there’s such a well-rounded cast performing that it isn’t as noticeable as often. That being said, there’s only so much that can be done with Chrissy Metz’s dialogue. She often has to deliver some really cheesy work and it falls flat at times and pulls you right out of the film.

The screenplay’s structure works pretty well in that it establishes our emotional conflicts in the film early on and plays with the relationships of the various characters as they maneuver in and out of the film. I respected the fact that Joyce doesn’t get along well with the new Pastor in town, played by Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3, TV’s The Hot Zone). Their conflict is a little goofier than I would have liked, but I still see the attempt. I also liked that the story attempts to tackle the idea that some people are saved by faith while others are not. It doesn’t wholly accomplish this, but again, it’s an area these films tend not to tread.

Perhaps the area where the film struggles in its overall narrative is placing Joyce at the center. I was much more engaged with her husband Brian (Josh Lucas, Sweet Home Alabama, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House) and his struggle to accept that his son is fighting for his life. I would have liked to see his journey to faith be reclaimed). I also liked Tommy (Mike Colter, Men in Black 3, Extinction), the firefighter who saves John because he hears a voice telling him to keep looking. His problem is that he thinks God was talking to him, but he doesn’t believe in God. Either of these characters would have been stronger to place the load of the film on because they both have journeys to go on. We never see Joyce truly struggle in a realistic way and that makes her less of a dynamic character who is believable. Her struggle is not identifiable.

Breakthrough is altogether not a great film, but as far as films of this type go, I think this one is worth catching if you need a pick-me-up. It’s rather glossy and the dialogue needed a miracle at times, but it also made me feel good at times and inspired me in little doses. Breakthrough is not for everyone, but it will satisfy its core audience.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Marshall (2017)

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens, Sterling K. Brown, James Cromwell

Screenplay: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Koskoff

118 mins. Rated PG-13.

 

Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War, Gods of Egypt) has played a lot of biopics, this one being the fourth time. Is it his best?

Marshall is the story of Thurgood Marshall (Boseman) and his teaming up with Insurance lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast) to defend Joseph Spell (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, TV’s This is Us), a colored man accused of raping a woman he works for in one of Marshall’s early cases.

There are no noticeably poor actors in the film, but the standouts come in Boseman and Brown.  Brown himself turns in an incredible performance as Spell, a man who is so terrified of his situation that he doesn’t know to trust, who to talk to, and how to act. His is a stoic thoughtful performance. Boseman, too, disappears into his role as Thurgood Marshall. Boseman is no stranger to playing real life men, having already become James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Floyd Little in his career, and his performance as the future Supreme Court Justice is exemplary.

Credit should be given to Josh Gad, Dan Stevens (Kill Switch, TV’s Downton Abbey) as the prosecutor Loren Willis, and James Cromwell (The Green Mile, The Promise) as Judge Foster, a noticeably bigoted man who attempts to stop Marshall and Friedman at every attempt to prove innocence.

Director Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Serving Sara) hasn’t had a lot of experience in directing these types of films, but he holds his own quite nicely. There isn’t a lot of visual flair, but his attention to detail aids the intensity. I remember a moment when the inclusion of car lights outside made me uncomfortable for the characters knowing the situation these two men were in. The car lights were unneeded, but having them raised the intensity level just a bit more. The cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel again has moments of greatness littered throughout mixed with the restraint that you often see in courtroom dramas. The same can be said of the music. Sometimes it really works, but it doesn’t jump out at you.

Marshall is a great character piece, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find Boseman and Brown on the Oscar ballot come January, and the rest of the cast performs rather admirably. There isn’t a lot of technical flair on display here, though that isn’t really a bad thing. Marshall is a strong outing, a biopic focused on one incident and how it changed those involved. This is a film that you won’t want to miss.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Marshall yet? What did you think? And what’s the best Chadwick Boseman-led biopic? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑