Creed Review – American Myth-Making

I’m no boxing fanatic, but there aren’t many things that can match the overwhelming rush of a perfectly executed cinematic boxing match. So, when I say Creed has two such fights, then that should be one ticket sold, thank you very much.

Michael B. Jordan enters the ring as Adonis “Donnie” Creed, son of Apollo, the hulking heavyweight champion of the world from the first four Rocky films. Donnie’s brawler’s blood runs hot during a childhood in and out of juvy, before he settles into a desk job with the help of his mother. Underground fights in Mexico remain his only thrill until he decides to hit the big leagues and travels over to Philadelphia to search for the perfect trainer, his father’s conqueror, and killer, Rocky Balboa.

Bonded over their connection to Apollo, Balboa finally agrees to train Donnie in his quest to step into his father’s triumphant shoes. Training sequences ensue and Balboa tries to shape Donnie’s natural ability into something truly world beating. We only reach the ring on two occasions but, as I’ve mentioned, both fights are insanely memorable. The first is most notable for its cinematic technique as ace cinematographer, Maryse Alberti, flexes her filmmaking muscles to shoot the whole fight in a glorious single take. Her camera bobs and weaves between the two challengers, anticipating and intensifying every blow. It’s a really monumental achievement of choreography and visual verve.

The second fight is less technically flamboyant, although it’s still a stunningly shot piece of cinema, and instead sets the focus squarely on the unfolding drama. It’s an exceptional case of firmly established character foundations, and triumphant scoring from composer Ludwig Göransson, elevating an action sequence to new heights. Jordan is terrific and sells this breathtaking finale perfectly. Tessa Thompson is equally effortless in an important supporting role, and then we’ve got the big man himself, Sylvester Stallone, who revives his most iconic role in spectacular fashion.

He is well worth his Best Supporting Actor wins as he handles the moments of levity with an unexpected lightness of touch and then doubles down on the weightier character beats to devastating effect. Sylvester fricking Stallone brought tears to my eyes, for heaven’s sake… twice! I often feel his acting chops are undervalued, but even in my even-handed appreciation of his talents, I was truly bowled over by just how good he is here.

He’s aided, of course, by some pitch-perfect character writing from writer-director Ryan Coogler, and his co-writer Aaron Covington. The two of them nail these characters and breath new life into this series in the process. Donnie and Balboa’s rapport is particularly well-handled and the sprinkling of simple, but disarmingly effective, details work a treat. The subtlety of the hearing aid moment is really something and it takes great confidence to weave in those kind of poetic intricacies. Also, I won’t say too much on the subject, but with all this talk of diversity, or lack thereof, in Hollywood, how wondrous it is to see two POC writers representing black experience with such social nous.

Ryan Coogler’s has singlehandedly reinvigorated the Rocky franchise with a powerhouse legacy movie for the ages. Creed is superlative big screen entertainment. See it big; see it loud… see it.

★★★★★

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