Sound of Metal (2019): Hearing is Precious, Here’s Proof

“Sound of Metal” is directed by Darius Marder (The Place Beyond the Pines, Loot) and stars Riz Ahmed (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Nightcrawler), Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One, Bates Motel), Paul Raci (Goliath, Switched at Birth), Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead, Wonderstruck), and Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, The Grand Budapest Hotel). This film centers around a drummer named Ruben, who we find out early on is losing his hearing at an alarming rate. His sponsor, worried for him, makes him go to a deaf community and meet Joe, who runs said community. Ruben does this all the while struggling to live with his new situation.

I often poke fun at this company because its business practices usually prevents competition from getting their foot in the door. But if one company has been coming through during this pandemic when it comes to film, it would have be Amazon. They have consistently been releasing film after film, and while not all of them are great (I’m looking at you, “My Spy”), they have come out with some of the more watchable ones this year. “The Vast of Night” was my first 8/10 of the year, which unfortunately came in over the halfway point of the annual calendar. “Radioactive” had a great lead performance by Rosamund Pike and is a marvelous telling of Marie Curie’s life story. Amazon also put out a couple good, but not great, documentaries this year. If it were not for Hulu’s “I Am Greta,” “Time” would be my favorite documentary of 2020. I think Amazon has a solid track record this year. Not perfect, but solid.

“Sound of Metal” is Amazon’s best 2020 release yet.

People say that film is a visual medium, and they’re not wrong. When you have a character whose hearing is being taken away, it makes you appreciate the sights of whatever gets captured on camera. This is a film that at various points, has minimal dialogue, and relies on what you see, not hear. I have seen space movies where they drop the sound to mimic the endless vacuum of the starry sky, but “Sound of Metal” is that if it were brought down to earth. Even at points where the movie became somewhat difficult to watch, it had my attention simply because it was effective enough in its demanding of it. They say that audio is half your movie, and “Sound of Metal” does a really good job at suggesting that such a half may not always be a necessity. I have good hearing, and at times, it’s a curse due to my sensitivity to certain sounds. This movie occasionally made me feel deaf.

It is difficult to determine who will end up being this year’s Best Ensemble, but if I had to pick a perfect candidate right now, that would have to be the cast of “Sound of Metal.” Staying consistent with previous thoughts, many of the performances in this film are not what they are because of their lines, but through their physicality. This movie primarily focuses on two languages. English and sign language. All this leads to what ends up being some of the best writing and directing I have witnessed all year.

Riz Ahmed is a triumph in this film. I have witnessed Ahmed in previous projects, most notably “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and I thought in his previous roles that he served his purpose. Here however, it is difficult to deny that he was allowed to shine and reveal his true acting abilities. His portrayal of Ruben is raw, gritty, natural, and sort of mind-boggling at times. Ahmed is a true performer, and I liked him before “Sound of Metal” came out, but this is the first movie I’ve seen him in that puts his name on the map for me.

I also admire Ahmed’s chemistry with Olivia Cooke, who plays Lou in this film. For the record, Lou is Ruben’s sponsor, while also revealing to be romantically involved with the guy. Unlike Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke was a name that has circled around my head for sometime, and the reason for that is because “Ready Player One” ended up being one of my most rewatched movies of 2018. I like Olivia Cooke in “Ready Player One,” she was great in that movie. Much like Riz Ahmed, I sort of got to see more of Cooke’s true colors in this movie. This is a performance that absolutely dives into the emotions of the character at hand. I could feel the connection between her and Ahmed, and such a bond turned out to be one of the highlights of the film.

If this film has done one thing, that would be to make me realize the talent that can come from even people I do not know. I knew who Ahmed and Cooke were, but one man who I have not seen prior to this film is Paul Raci. I have no idea what his future holds, but with enough luck, it may end up being one with massive success. His portrayal of Joe really helped this film bring itself to an intimate level. Ruben is the rough, rugged, obnoxious main character who needs to realize what is ahead. Joe is calm, poised, and patient. If I were stuck in traffic with this guy, it would not be the worst car ride ever.

Continuing the subject of unknown, recently realized talent, this is the feature length directorial debut of Darius Marder, and if he keeps up his game, he could be a household name. This is his first feature film, and it is still a bit early to tell if his name will be big enough, or noteworthy enough to associate with the greats. Nevertheless, depending on how COVID-19 continues to unfold, we’ll have to see when Marder’s next film hits, but this is a fantastic debut. I would love to see more from Marder if possible, and maybe he’ll be the next big name in the industry.

If I had any problems with “Sound of Metal,” they would honestly be quite hard to point out. While the casting is amazing, it is a little weird to have a relationship between the main characters if their respective actors are 11 years apart in age. At the same time though, age is just a number. I will also say, time will be the defining factor here, but it is hard to tell whether I will obligate myself to go on Prime Video and watch this movie again. It’s not that I did not like the movie, I enjoyed it very much. But there are a couple scenes that immediately deliver a lack of comfort. While the feeling did provoke a sense that my time watching the film was well spent, it was nevertheless brought through scenes that may have been harder to watch than others.

Upon reflection, I would have to say that I love the way that this film starts and ends. I say so because it is a perfect encapsulation of Ruben’s journey. I will not go into much detail, but it has to do with his profession, the effects of said profession, and the overall journey of the film. This forms a recipe for greatness, and ultimately, one of my favorite movies of the year.

In the end, “Sound of Metal” is a nearly flawless attempt to highlight what it is like to lose your hearing. It shows ups, it shows downs, it shows in-betweens, showcasing a hard journey for the main individual and people around him. We can all agree that 2020 is objectively the worst year to be a film fan, that even stands true with the notion that “Parasite” deservedly won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Theaters have been closed. A lot of the films that are in theaters right now are probably just getting dumped. Disney+ got absolutely greedy with their “Mulan” experiment. Not many movies have been extraordinary. Although there have been a few that have been extraordinary like “The Last Shift,” “Over the Moon,” and “Yellow Rose.” As of today, “Sound of Metal” joins those movies in said category. I am going to give “Sound of Metal” a 9/10.

“Sound of Metal” is in select theaters starting Friday, November 20th, and will then drop onto Amazon’s Prime Video as an exclusive two weeks later, December 4th.

Thanks for reading this review! I am not sure what I will be watching this weekend, if anything. But over Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be reviewing “Superintelligence,” the all new film hitting HBO Max starring Melissa McCarthy and directed by her husband, Ben Falcone. Two and a half years ago, I reviewed “Life of the Party,” which these two collaborated on. It ended up being my least favorite film of the year. This can only go so well. Will 2020 strike me down once more? Will we see a turnaround for the celebrity couple? Find out soon on Scene Before! If you want to see that post, and more posts like this one, be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Sound of Metal?” What did you think about it? Or, have you watched any Amazon movies this year? Which one is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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