Black Ops operative Malcolm Gray returns home after a botched mission in Eastern Europe. Holed up in a Brooklyn motel room, he is torn between retribution and personal salvation as he ... See full summary »
Black Ops operative Malcolm Gray returns home after a botched mission in Eastern Europe. Holed up in a Brooklyn motel room, he is torn between retribution and personal salvation as he mentally unravels. When the walls close in, his story may be all he can leave behind. Written by
Idris Elba spent most of the time filming in one room or another. The room that the film was filmed in, and his hotel room. The schedule was so tight, and the role so intense, that he barely ever had the time or energy to do anything else but prepare and perform. See more »
Doesn't come together as it should in the final third but Elba is terrific and is a big part of it working
I didn't know anything about this film when I finally got to see it. Kermode never reviewed it, Metacritic doesn't list it and several other sites I read didn't either. The reason I was looking for it was that I am a fan of Idris Elba not a fan of all his films necessarily but a fan of what he can do since I am familiar with him from his quite brilliant turn as The Wire's Stringer Bell. The news that the film also had some other HBO actors I know (Walker from Oz, Peters from The Wire, Pulver from True Blood) only made me want to see it more Eamonn Walker in particular was more than enough. But essentially the reason I came to the film was Elba and other than that I didn't know what the plot was or what to expect. I'll be honest and say I had some worries for several reasons: firstly it is a joint production with a Nigerian company and the few Nollywood films I have seen have been poor; secondly it was called "Legacy Black Ops" when I heard of it and I worried that it was trying to cash in on the Black Ops name since this is a rather large video game at the moment.
Anyway, despite my worries I actually quite enjoyed the film and found the 90 minutes to be mostly surprisingly gripping. Starting with a black ops mission that is going wrong we cut quickly to a cheap room in Brooklyn where one of the unit has holed up to complete "his mission". He talks to his video camera alone in his room; he is careful when he opens the door and he rarely answers the telephone. His ex (who married his brother while he was presumed dead) visits him in his room and he watches his brother (a presidential hopeful) being interviewed on TV. The structure of the film means we are mostly in the room that Malcolm has rented but we also have flashbacks to the mission he was on at the start of the film so that, while he follow his story now, we also see what has happened. What is happening now is that Malcolm appears to be trying to make up for his "sins" by exposing his brother's involvement in these black operations and in particular the fraud of a large sarin gas recovery on the East Coast by leaking details to a journalist. Throughout the film, in the time-honoured tradition, the pressure and the isolation appear to be taking their toll on Malcolm and his grip on sanity appears to be slipping.
In this regard the film does tread a rather worn path but I still found it engaging. I have seen others on IMDb say it was too long but for me it only started to get obvious that reality was maybe blurring around the halfway mark and it was only 90 minutes long so it did interest me. Splitting the two timelines along the movie means that it does hold the interest in both regards but unfortunately as the film starts to come together it doesn't gel as I had hoped. The ending is far too sudden and the film has not quite done enough with Malcolm's guilt to make it accessible to the viewer to the point that we really understand him more dialogue between Macolm and his brother would have been one way to overcome this and I was hoping that the scene with them both in his room would produce more spark and more emotion. It still works but the material really needed to be stronger for the second half and I did feel it fell short.
One massive reason it still works though is Elba, and you can see why he took this low-budget movie made in Dumfries (Scotland) because the stage is his. Although the material doesn't give him everything he needs, he gets his delivery just right gradually going from stable to unstable and with plenty of emotions to deliver. I enjoyed his performance a lot and I wish more films gave him the chance to show what he can do because he is a great actor. I know he is also in Thor at the moment and I hope that he can continue to get a good mix of small roles in large films and large roles in smaller films. The support cast are no slouches although they have less to do. Lie to Me's Curnen works well with Elba although she does inhabit this odd world that feels a little less real than it should in the early stages of the film. Peters is a solid presence not sure what attracted him but he is a good find here. Walker disappointed me in terms of what he had to do he is a good presence but the material lets him down as he is capable of more emotional range than he has here; like I said, his scene with Elba should have been so much more than it was not just for the film's benefit but also for theirs as actors.
Overall Legacy is engaging film even if you know roughly the road it is going down. The material lets it down by not all pulling together as it should in the final third but it is still engaging thanks in the main part to a great performance from Elba, who really nails his character and convinces in every scene, whether it be torture, action or breakdown.
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