The Safdie brothers have cemented themselves as modern auteurs with their latest cinematic panic attack. Adam Sandler is astonishing in the lead, delivering a performance destined to be considered the crown jewel of his oeuvre – 5/5
If the current awards season has taught audiences anything, it’s that Netflix is on a roll…
Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story and Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes have scored so many nominations, including plenty at the forthcoming Academy Awards.
The popular streaming service should be applauded for ensuring these magnificent films a wider audience, and it’s great to see the Oscars acknowledge their brilliance. However, one film will feel criminally ignored on the big night, and that film is Uncut Gems.
The Safdie brothers have established themselves amongst the most exciting filmmakers working today with such masterclasses as Heaven Knows What and Good Time. Both make for thoroughly uncomfortable and nerve-shattering experiences, yet not for a second will you be able to peel your eyes away from them.
With Uncut Gems, which arrived on Netflix on Friday, January 31st 2020, they have pulled off a feature which appeals to both mainstream audiences and cinephiles, without having to sacrifice any of their signature style.
In the lead, we have a career-best performance from Adam Sandler as New York jeweller Howard Ratner. The actor is best known for his comedic work, but here he totally disappears into the dramatic role of a man who is chasing a huge score, courtesy of tracking down an exceedingly rare opal.
As the narrative progresses, audiences are invited to decipher whether he’s addicted to money, gambling, or simply the thrill of the risk – or all!
His performance is absolutely superb, and the supporting cast featuring LaKeith Stanfield, Julia Fox and Kevin Garnett are terrific too. It would be easy to crown Sandler as king of the show, but this is the Safdie brothers’ vision… frenzied and addictive.
It’s the kind of film that only they could make, and honestly, nobody else is making movies like this. Their latest never allows the viewer or even its characters a moment to breathe; Howard is like a human pinball being batted around into chaos and catastrophe. However, the most stressful part stems from the fact that our protagonist always has the chance to wrap things up and cease this shared anxiety attack. That would be far too easy.
From its overbearing soundtrack to its editing, it’s designed as a constantly shifting assault on the senses, and despite its exhausting nature, it’s always entertaining. This is filmmaking of unmistakable authority, and along with Good Time, perhaps it’s fair to declare that the Safdies now have two masterpieces under their belt.
Uncut Gems isn’t just a good time, it’s absolutely essential, and the film to beat in 2020.