Review: LUCE Is A Thoughtful And Unnerving Thriller

FIRST IMPRESSION

Intricately-crafted for maximum suspense and impact, Luce has a lot on its mind, and it is able to say all of it in a lean and entertaining way.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Luce, co-written and directed by Julius Onah (The Cloverfield Paradox) and based on the play by J.C. Lee, is a thoroughly intense and thought-provoking thriller that couldn’t be more relevant right now. Powered by an intelligent script and a phenomenal cast, this is one film that will stick with you long after the credits roll, for all the right reasons.

The movie follows the eponymous protagonist, a high school student who was adopted from war-torn Africa by a well-meaning American couple, as suspicious mount against him when a teacher makes a startling discovery. Despite the relatively small-scale and personal nature of this story, it manages to address “big picture” ideas that so dominate the conversation in the news today.

Perhaps most impressive about this film, though, is that Onah and Lee obviously have a lot on their mind, and they are able to say it without the movie feeling overstuffed. Topics touched on by the film include race, discrimination, social class, treatment of people with disabilities, the disillusionment of youth, and the shortcomings of the education system, all explored through a thought-provoking commentary on violence.

The movie is also able to hold your attention for the entirety of its runtime because of Onah’s wonderful ability to build and maintain tension over the course of the film. There aren’t many big and flashy sequences in the movie, but Onah is able to make smaller bursts of excitement feel extremely intense in a way that will keep you on the edge of your seat and waiting for what is to come next.

luce solo
Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) in LUCE (©jonpack).

Another strength of this film is its character development. The whole point of this movie is exploring the grey areas of morality, and the film does a phenomenal job of that. The movie doesn’t force a perspective down our throats, so we never know who is right and who is wrong. As a result, we feel like outsiders observing the situation and we can evaluate the characters’ actions and the ethical implications they have.

The cast is absolutely phenomenal as well. Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer both deliver great performances. Watts brings so much humanity and empathy to her character that really allows her to be the audience’s lens into the story. Spencer goes all out in her role, although she never feels over-the-top. Watching her and the character devolve over the course of the film is truly inspiring. Tim Roth also has a few great moments in the movie.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. seems poised for a breakout from this role. Although he has given some very powerful performances in the past, none has matched the emotional nuance and complexity of his eponymous turn in this film. He absolutely nails the mysterious ambiguity of the character. One moment, he’ll be this lovable, approachable kid, and the next moment you’ll be intimidated by his delivery. However, he is so subtle with the way he approaches the role that you will undeniably be stricken with awe at the breadth of his range.

The movie’s execution is really great too. Unlike most other stage-to-screen adaptations, this film is shot in a way that is very cinematic. Even though the movie is largely dialogue-driven, the filmmakers do a great job of using the means at their disposal to tell the story visually as well. The cinematography and editing, for example, are used to create a visual rhythm that helps build suspense. The score (one of the best and most unique of the year) also helps craft the tone.

This description does get thrown around a bit too often, it applies perfectly to Luce — there really isn’t anything else quite like this film. An unnerving blend of melodrama and slow-burn thriller, paired with some great performances, this movie shows that Onah is a filmmaker to watch, because if his growth is any indication, his next effort could be a masterpiece.

Luce is now playing in theaters.

TRENDING THIS WEEK

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 3 – Official Teaser | Prime Video

Nominated for 20 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series, watch the Season 3 teaser for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Season 3 premieres December 6, 2019. » The Marvelous Mrs.Maisel returns 12/06. Watch the current seasons 1 & 2 with your Prime Membership: http://bit.ly/MaiselPrimeVideo » SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/PrimeVideoSubscribe About The Marvelous Mrs.Maisel: In 1958 New York, Midge…

In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 (2019) | Official Trailer | HBO

When the Twin Towers were attacked on September 11, 2001, students had just started their day at Stuyvesant High School, a few blocks away. In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 offers a unique eyewitness perspective on that tragic day and its aftermath from former Stuyvesant students. In the Shadow of the…

Travis Scott – Look Mom I Can Fly | Extended Trailer | Netflix

Travis Scott: Look Mom I Can Fly straps viewers into a front row seat of Scott’s life leading up to the release of his Grammy-nominated album Astroworld and its aftermath in this exclusive look at one of music's most dynamic superstars. Watch Travis Scott: Look Mom I Can Fly, Only on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81046796 SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/29qBUt7…

Legion | Inside Season 3: The Creator, Noah Hawley | FX

Noah Hawley's mind is an experience. The cast describes what it's like to work with the creator of Legion. Subscribe now for more Legion clips: http://bit.ly/SubscribeFX Legion follows the story of “David Haller,” a man who discovered he might be the most powerful mutant in the world. With help from a team of specialists, David…

Next on Episode 2 | On Becoming a God in Central Florida | SHOWTIME

Krystal networks her way into an opportunity in the beauty pageant industry. Cody (Théodore Pellerin) tries to be his own workhorse. Ernie (Mel Rodriguez) builds a time capsule. Starring Kirsten Dunst. Premieres Sunday, August 25th at 10/9c on SHOWTIME. #OnBecomingAGod Subscribe to the Showtime channel for more clips: http://goo.gl/esCMib Don’t have SHOWTIME? Order now: http://s.sho.com/1HbTNpQ…

Pose | Season 2 Ep. 10: Angel Proposes to Papi Highlight | FX

These are happy tears...these are happy tears #PoseFX Season 2 is available on FXNOW. Subscribe now for more Pose clips: http://bit.ly/SubscribeFX Season 2 of Pose flashes forward in time to 1990. On the heels of the ballroom community establishing itself in pop culture and going mainstream, the House of Evangelista is forced to reevaluate their…

‘Fan Favorites’ | Power Season 6 | STARZ

We asked, you answered. Relive all of the Power fan favorite moments to get ready for Season 6. #Power #STARZ Subscribe to the STARZ YouTube Channel for more Power: http://bit.ly/1kalhP0 Get your free trial of the STARZ app: http://starz.tv/WatchSTARZYT Like Power on Facebook: http://starz.tv/PowerFacebookYT Follow Power on Twitter: http://starz.tv/PowerTwitterYT Follow Power on Instagram: http://starz.tv/PowerInstagramYT Like…
Avatar
Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here