Breaking (Seen at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival)
John Boyega delivers an incredible, career-best performance in Breaking, a drama that hits familiar notes, but manages to connect viewers to the emotional turmoil of the moment through a tense, riveting ride.
Based on a true story, former U.S. Marine Brian Easley (Boyega) robs a bank in Atlanta, taking two hostages and seeking to tell his story of bureaucratic runarounds and shafts. This debut from from writer/director Abi Damaris Corbin (Kwame Kewi-Armah also co-wrote), is an unnerving look at the human impacts of broken systems in the United States, as well as how mental health continues to be a cause for increased attention. Boyega is emotionally raw, yet fervent in his portrayal of Easley, a performance by the young actor reminiscent of Denzel Washington in John Q; he’s that good. This also is the final performance from Michael Kenneth Williams, a smaller role, but an impactful one; he brings a calm and steady to the film and to the situation at hand. The same can be said for Connie Britton, an all-star at shining in minor roles, here as a television reporter who converses with Boyega’s Easley. Other notables are Nicole Beharie and Selenis Leyva, the hostages, whose characters display a combination of fear and empathy in such a palpable way for viewers.
Corbin directs with precision and skill, diving headfirst into the central plot and never letting her foot off of the gas. The story unfolds through impactful, thoughtful storytelling that utilizes the relationships Easley has (mainly with his daughter) and his own memories (in limited flashbacks) to quickly establish the stakes. Though Breaking spends the majority of the time in an isolated setting (the bank), nothing more was needed. This is a stunning debut that tells the story with care and, even though I would have liked to have seen more of the discourse surrounding actions taken at the end by officials, it leaves viewers with a lot to think about.