PG Score: 8/10
Sound of Metal is available on Amazon Prime
Darius Marder's potent directorial debut, Sound of Metal, is an engaging experience headlined by a magnificent performance from Riz Ahmed and incredible sound design that finds an affecting pitch early and often.
Plot and Sound Design
The story centers on Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a heavy metal drummer whose life spirals out of control when he begins to lose his hearing. With the help of his fellow band member and girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke), he embarks on a fateful quest for solace.
There are many films that revolve around a character’s battle with a disease or disability, but Sound of Metal distinguishes itself by completely cementing the viewer in the shoes of the protagonist. Writer/Director Darius Marder has created a comprehensive work of art that captivates from start to finish. When the high-pitched ringing invades Ruben’s ears, the way the film eliminates all other noise is genuinely distressing. The excruciating silence is reflected in his every mannerism as his facial expressions shift from concern to utter incredulity.
As the movie progresses, the sound levels range from thunderous highs to complete quiet. This enormous spectrum envelops the auditory sense for the entirety of the two-hour runtime. These drastic fluctuations are mirrored by significant mood swings in the main character. The increasingly erratic behavior is understandable, but it awakens long-buried demons that he is forced to face. Marder does an excellent job of linking sound with emotion.
Riz Ahmed became a household name because of his Emmy-winning portrayal of Nasir Khan in the sensational miniseries, The Night Of. Since then, he has continued to hone his craft and prove his talent as a character actor. In Sound of Metal, he is at the top of his game once again as he delivers another tour de force performance. To prepare for the role, he spent six months learning the drums and mastered American Sign Language. This astounding dedication pays massive dividends on-screen as he does not miss a beat.
As Ruben’s hearing is rapidly diminished, the stark realization and subsequent anguish is expertly depicted by Ahmed, who conveys each drop of suffering, reluctance, denial, machismo, and motivation with flawless execution. The character fights with every ounce of his being to minimize and downright dismiss the severity of his ailment. The viewer’s connection to Ruben’s staggering struggle is driven by the skill of the actor and resonates on an even deeper level thanks to the film’s incredible use of sound (and the absence of it).
The magnetic star is backed by two standout supporting displays in Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci. The former plays Ruben’s devoted significant other, Lou, and absolutely nails the part. While her other half has his entire world turned on its head, she is left to pick up the pieces. The actress adeptly illustrates the balancing act of pushing him towards making the best of his impairment and giving him the space to work through his anger. Since Sound of Metal is Ahmed’s vehicle, her screen time is somewhat limited, but Cooke manages to dazzle in every one of her scenes.
Paul Raci is responsible for the other noteworthy supporting role as Ruben’s mentor, Joe. It is safe to say that the character hits close to home for the seasoned actor. His parents both lost their hearing at a young age, which prompted him to become a Legally Certified Sign Language Interpreter and heavily involved in the deaf community. Raci plays the calm and collected Joe with the authenticity that can be expected of someone with his background.
There are a few places where Sound of Metal loses some momentum. During these infrequent lulls, the pacing does slow down considerably but thankfully avoids grinding to a halt altogether. The slowdowns likely boil down to a need for sharper editing, but these minor hiccups are mostly drowned out by the movie’s many positives.
Darius Marder has made a bold entrance into the world of directing and has found success in blending intense drama with unparalleled audience immersion. Propelled by riveting acting from Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal emits a decibel that will reverberate for years to come.
PG Score: 8/10
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