All Eyez on Me (2017)

Director: Benny Boom Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Dominic Santana, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh

Long time, no activity on ScreenSnap. Apologies for the hiatus- it’s been a hectic few months but what better way to ease back in than to review the biopic of one of my all time fave humans, Tupac Shakur. All Eyez on Me follows the story of the legendary rapper from his early childhood to his death in 1996, exploring the relationships and experiences that made him who he was.

As I’ve mentioned, I love 2pac and I was excited to see how his life would be represented on screen. On the whole, I was pretty pleased- people often underrate what a good writer and poet he actually was, (by tarring the whole hip-hop genre with one brush) and the movie did a good job of showing these aspects of his life, for example exploring his time at the Baltimore School of the Arts. For someone watching the film who didn’t know much about his life, I think this part would surprise them positively and I was glad they showed these more unknown bits.

Unfortunately though, the structure of the film made the whole thing a bit bitty and I felt like some scenes that could have gone somewhere were cut off, while other scenes lingered for too long. The first half of the film is structured mainly with flashbacks, with the present being an interview with Tupac while he’s in prison. Then once the flashbacks catch up with the present (prison), the rest of the film just follows a linear timeline. This felt a bit random- I felt it should have been one or the other, and it meant that the flashbacks were shorter and ended just as they were getting interesting, while the second half of the film felt like it went on and on. Consequently, some parts were missed and others were too over-the-top.

The stand-out character was Afeni, Tupac’s mother, and I was pleased that they did spend quite a bit of time exploring her story and their relationship, as this was essential to understanding the person that Tupac became. I was definitely most convinced by the performance of Danai Gurira (of The Walking Dead fame), who played Afeni. Following Straight Outta Compton, in which all the characters were cast superbly and the actors captured their characters almost flawlessly, All Eyez on Me wasn’t quite as good at this. The guy who played Tupac looked almost exactly like him and captured his mannerisms pretty well, but the others just weren’t quite as good. After watching Straight Outta Compton I came away amazed at how well they managed it, but this one didn’t have quite the same effect.

I would recommend this to people who already know a bit about Tupac and who are already fans, but generally if you’re not interested already it will probably be quite boring. As far as biopics go, I don’t think it would convince people to find out more about his life or music (whereas I thought the opposite about Straight Outta Compton). A solid effort but nothing outstanding. The soundtrack is pretty good though.

2.5 stars

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The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Ⓒ Film Four/Wildwood Enterprises/Tu Vas Voir Productions
Ⓒ Film Four/Wildwood Enterprises/Tu Vas Voir Productions

Director: Walter Salles Cast: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna

In this movie adaptation of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s autobiographical work of the same name, we learn about the events that shaped one of the world’s most famous revolutionaries. Ernesto, known commonly as “Fuser” in this film, sets off on a road trip with a friend on a motorcycle across South America, with the aim of reaching Venezuela. On their way, they encounter number of fascinating people who live in poverty, under oppression, or in segregation, and who eventually influence the political views of the person we all think of when we think of Che Guevara.

I really enjoyed this film, far more than I thought I would. It had been on my list of things to watch for ages, since I’ve visited loads of the places featured in the film, and as a responsible Spanish graduate I thought it’s one of those films I should watch- but I’d been putting it off because I thought it would be slow and tedious. However, from the outset the film is compelling and it has a lot more depth to the storyline than I had expected. Rather than just the story of a road trip, it demonstrates the events that pushed this middle-class doctor to become a communist guerrilla fighter, through the people that he meets. Knowing what we know about Che Guevara, it’s interesting to see how he got to that point, and I think it portrays him in a positive light- you can clearly see how he was affected by circumstances.

The film is in Spanish, so this might put off some people as it requires subtitles, but I also think it shouldn’t be written off just because Che Guevara isn’t necessarily an interesting enough topic. For those who wouldn’t immediately choose this film, I would say don’t let any preconceptions of Che Guevara get in the way, because it can be approached from an angle that just tells the story of someone who is affected by the poverty he sees, rather than what we know happens later on in his life. There’s also some really good acting (a very convincing friendship between he two main characters), a few comic moments, and some beautiful scenic shots of South America. The film isn’t packed with action, but the storyline moves quickly enough to keep you on your toes. A great option for a more thoughtful film.

4 stars