NINE DAYS Review; "A Film Of The Year Candidate Thanks To A Career-Best Performance From Winston Duke"

NINE DAYS Review; "A Film Of The Year Candidate Thanks To A Career-Best Performance From Winston Duke"

Nine Days will be released in New York and Los Angeles on July 30 before a wide release on August 6, and to call this a legit movie of the year candidate would be an understatement. Here's our verdict...

It's seemingly growing increasingly more difficult for original sci-fi movies to make an impact at the box office. While there's definitely a place for them, money talks, and being overshadowed by big budget blockbusters means it's getting harder for them to receive that all-important green light from studios. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a lot of great movies that might have otherwise been overlooked get some attention thanks to Digital releases, but with theaters reopening, Nine Days is looking to make an impact on the biggest screens possible. Honestly, it's hard to think of a film more deserving than this one to exceed expectations. Simply put, it's a thought-provoking tour-de-force of a movie that features perhaps the best cast of any 2021 release, and you'd be a fool to overlook it.

In Nine Days, Winston Duke (Black Panther) plays Will, a man tasked with interviewing unborn souls in an effort to determine whether they deserve life. Meeting five new candidates - played by Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgård, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl, and Arianna Ortiz - Will gets some help making his decision from Kyo (Benedict Wong), but with only one of them destined to earn a spot on Earth, this thoughtful, hard-hitting tale deals with perhaps the highest stakes possible. The movie effortlessly puts us in Will's shoes and makes it impossible to root for any one character because doing so condemns the others to never experience life. It's heart-wrenching at times, but not in a way that ever makes this a grim or off-putting experience. 

Beyond the unique premise, Nine Days is also a fascinating glimpse into mental health, particularly in men. Edson Oda's superb screenplay never needs to head down a heavy-handed route to deliver its message, and instead relies on the wonderful performances of its cast. Will, unlike Kyo, has spent time on Earth and both that experience, and learning of the suicide of one of the people he deemed worthy of living through the TV screens he observes their lives on, have an impact on him that he clearly can't or won't talk about openly. Duke is a powerful force, but the hurt behind his eyes is clear to see, and the actor's Oscar-worthy performance shows a side to him we haven't seen in his blockbuster roles point to his already excellent acting career being even more exciting than anticipated (the fact he's chosen Nine Days as his first producing credit is also a thrilling indication he plans to explore a lot of different ideas and concepts moving forward). 
 


Both Wong and Beetz bring a lighter touch to proceedings that sees their characters attempt to break through the shell Will has created around himself. Their performances are every bit as fascinating as Duke's, with Beetz once again making it look effortless to deliver a complex, layered female character regardless of the size of her role. Wong, meanwhile, does a great job of bringing us into this world as an observer, and his attempts to be Will's friend being rebuked hurt us just as much as him. 

Ultimately, Nine Days does such a terrific job of getting us invested in the stories of these characters that you'll find yourself analyzing their actions and comments just as much as Will does. Do they deserve life? Will they be a force for good on Earth or is it right that they're denied that chance after just nine days of "pre-life"? Even now, it's hard to say. For example, Hale, who is brilliant here, plays Alexander, a perfectly pleasant guy on the surface who has a dark sense of humour that leaves you wondering if he's disguising some sort of sinister ulterior motive for wanting to live. Oda's screenplay is phenomenal, but his direction means that the words he brings from page to screen can be interpreted and examined in a multitude of ways, all of which only serve to make Nine Days a fascinating journey to experience. 

Making his feature directing debut here, Oda delivers stunning visuals in spades and builds to a climax that features arguably the greatest performance you'll see this year courtesy of Duke. There are no action scenes or cosmic space battles, but none are needed in a movie that will excite and enchant you just as much as the biggest sci-fi blockbusters you can imagine. This feels like something special on all fronts, and it's a movie you'll walk away from feeling every bit as changed as the characters who inhabit this world. 

A stunning feature debut by director Edson Oda, Nine Days is powerful, moving, and a film of the year candidate thanks to a career-best performance from Winston Duke that drives home the fact he's a true acting force to be reckoned with.

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