Movie Review: Creed

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A young boxer enlists the help of a former champion to make a name for himself under his father’s shadow.

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Ryan Coogler, 2015

After being orphaned as a child, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) bounced from foster home to juvie before being taken in by Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad). Mary Anne is the widow of champion boxer Apollo Creed, who happens to be Adonis’s father. As an adult, Adonis takes up boxing in LA, but he struggles to find a trainer who will take him seriously. He quits his job and moves to Philadelphia to hunt down former champ Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), guilt tripping the old man into coming out of retirement to help him train. With support from the singer downstairs, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), Adonis works hard to prove himself as a fighter in his own right. He must fight not only people’s expectations of him, but his own anger at Apollo for dying, and his own short temper.

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This seventh entry in the Rocky franchise kind of snuck up on the world, released with little fanfare this month. I would have missed it completely if I hadn’t happened across a review. That would have sucked. Creed is easily one of the best films to come out this year, far eclipsing Southpaw as the best boxing movie of the year. Creed is a smart, moving film that displays excellent storytelling at every level. It’s smartly written, directed, edited and performed. The cinematography from Maryse Alberti is wonderful, alternating between warmth and brutality without ever being jarring. There’s one fight that’s shot entirely in one take, from backstage to the final knockout, without ever losing tension. The pace of the storytelling is surprisingly good for its two-plus hour runtime, allowing the characters room to breathe without feeling too long. There’s a couple of montages, and while one works better than the other, both serve a purpose in the narrative. Also, it’s really nice to see female extras in Creed in roles that women don’t often fill in movies – as boxers in the gym, security guards, nurses, in all walks of life.

Creed is totally the feel-good hit of the summer. There’s an underlying sweetness to the proceedings that persists through the drama, making the story’s themes of self-discovery and self-belief that much more affecting. You really root for Adonis and Rocky. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone have a lovely chemistry, which is rounded out nicely by Tessa Thompson. All three of them have their own journeys to go on that compliment one another and weave together. The storytelling is, for lack of a better word, genuinely organic. The drama springs naturally from these characters and never feels forced or false. The performance from Michael B. Jordan is particularly strong as he navigates Adonis’s trauma and anger with sensitivity. Jordan is every inch the movie star, and if he doesn’t get an Oscar nod it’ll be a travesty. Every so often the score gets a little over the top or melodramatic, but there’s a perfect moment when the old Rocky theme plays towards the end of the movie just when it’s needed. Creed acknowledges its legacy without overplaying the nostalgia card. Do yourself a favour and don’t miss it.

Creed on IMDb

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