Five Fingers for Marseilles (2017)
Director – Michael Matthews
Writer – Sean Drummond
Runtime – 118 minutes
Game 7 Films
Above the Clouds
Stage 5 Films
Not quite knowing quite what to expect, but hearing a rather loud buzz surrounding this film I was left intrigued. When finally given the opportunity to give it a view I became excited, but understandably weary. Would it, could it stand up to the praise it’s been garnered with and the hype preceeding it?
Shot entirely on location in South Africa and showcasing the talents of a number of relatively unknown actors the odds were stacked against Five Fingers finding notoreity from the get go. Add to that the fact that it’s primarily a western shot not in traditional American (or even Italian) wastelands but rather in South Africa and its a fearurr which boasts an unmistakable slant on the genre and the possibility of it finding success becomes slimmer still. However, it isn’t until one hits play that they get an understanding of why it is that the film has found widespread praise.
As the example
RottenTomatoes gives it…
91% Audience Score
From very early in the film the experience, expertise and genius behind the camera and the direction itself stands out. The story flows and quickly introduces the viewer to the location, the utterly relateable characters, their relationship and their hardships (which is very different from that in our own daily existence). Before I give a brief synopsis, sans spoilers, I must mention that FFfM (abr) sports subtitles, clear and easy to read, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t feature English. It also features two other languages (Xhosa and Southern Sotho) making the movie all the more authentic.
In short, FFfM story is as follows. Five friends (Zulu, Cockroach, Pastor, Pockets and Lion this is starting to sound like a Disney film, right?) all quite different, band together and vow to keep Railway, their town, out from under the thumb of crooked local law enforcement. Marseilles (in which Railway resides) suffers from no longer being a boom town and those still stuck in it take out their frustrations against the easiest targets available (this is where apartheid rears it’s ugly head in this film) – those who were native before the boom happened. It takes one instance, a bad decision based on emotion and the collectives relationship and reality drastically transforms. Following his actions Tau, known as the lion within the group takes flight escaping the feared ramifications of his deeds.
The film continues and finds Tau, portrayed brilliantly by Vuyo Dabula, in a lock up significantly older but not nessisarly wiser based on his choice of vocation, which obviously landed him his current predicament.
Time has passed and with hus punishment served its come time for him to be released. For some reason he chooses to return to Railway and not stick around with his criminal bretheren. He discovers things have changed (upon reentry) but the oppression remains, subtle yet distinct, tyranny and corruption though from a different leadership. And all under the disguise of change…at a price.
For want of not giving the entire plot away I’ll add that the film sports that which the multitude of others in the same genre boasts. It has it’s fair share of villains (those which the viewer will instatly take a disliking to) one who is even dead ringer for Yuel Bruner if he weren’t so Caucasian, a love interest, intrigue, emotion and plenty of tension, action and twists to keep the viewer on their feet.
What isn’t expected, however, is the penache and style utilized as the story unfolds.
The characters are rich backed by strong performances and the beauty of the location (captured wonderfully) itself in direct juxtaposition to the conditions in which the Township resides. The people however are still content regardless of not having the likes of which a typical viewer would hardly consider a luxury (a television, a car, a phone or even a stereo not to mention running clean water on demand). The emotion throughout is palpable, excellently crafted and accompanied by an applaudable soundtrack/score which peaks and subsides in just the right moments to heighten the vibe of the on screen goings on. A standout scene showcases the movies main villian, Ghost, backlit by lightning, colorful atmospherics and the advance of an oncoming storm. Other remarkable passages are equally as memorable and help FFfM stand out from a slew of recent other examples, which are typically merely ‘more of what’s come before, only newer’ in the same genre.
The films climax is an unexpected brilliant touch and harkens back to a scene found in its opening minutes in which the main players were younger, headstrong, courageous and not tainted by that which formed them into adults burdened by judgements, emotions and aspirations.
No matter what you might think, or assume, based on this films synopsis and that which undeniably makes it unique amongst it’s fellow bretheren give it a moment of your time. It won’t take long before it’s spurs are sunk in (yes, that’s a pun) and you’re captivated, a spellbinding effect in actuality which lasts until it’s final moments making for an overall unforgettable viewing experience the likes of which only transpires once in a great while.
My verdict, as if you haven’t already ventured an educated guess, DO NOT let this chunk of dusty celluloid pass you by.
Since August (2018) It’s been making rounds, in select cities nationwide, playing to widespread acclaim and finds its VOD release on October 23. Make a note but don’t miss out, else all you’ll hear are others praising it, possibly providing more spoilers than I’ve mentioned, which isn’t admittedly that hard.
Your slave to features diverse, unique and often frequenting a genre one familiar with my ridiculous ponderings might not expect.
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