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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Antwone Fisher (2002)



Reviews and Comments

Antwone Fisher wrote the autobiographical screenplay for this powerful film about a navy seaman whose quick temper lands him in with the base psychologist and from there through great life-changing events. The film is the acting debut of Derek Luke, who plays Fisher with sincerity, conviction, and charisma, and the directorial debut of Denzel Washington, who proves he can direct as well as he can act. Although the film does not call for a great deal of directing florishes -- Washington's technique seems mostly to be to stay out of the way of the story -- there is a sense of harmony between what is in front of the camera and what is behind it, the latter firmly supporting the former.

The emotions at play here are powerful. We've seen character stories like this before, but we don't always believe them. This one usually feels like it came from real life. It falters when portraying the members of Fisher's foster family. Much of it may indeed have been drawn from real life, but several scenes come across more like movie cliches.

More bears the mark of authenticity than not, however. Fisher's relationship with his psychologist and his family and the scenes at the end of the film which I shall not reveal -- whether these have also been manipulated for dramatic purposes or not, I do not know, but they ring true. If we have seen similar scenes in movies before, we never get the feeling we've seen these scenes or these characters or precisely these feelings. Seldom to movies have this much understanding of the nuances in the human spirit. Here is one that does, and it feels refreshingly alive.