Movie Review: Imperial Dreams

It’s been awhile, but I’m trying something new. Today I have a review of a film recently released on Netflix: Imperial Dreams. You can either watch the video or read below, they both pretty much have the same stuff, extra awkward breathing and pauses in the video.

Imperial Dreams is written and directed by Malik Vitthal and stars John Boyega, most notably known for his role in the current Star Wars trilogy. Initially shown at the Sundance film festival in 2014 (IMDB) it has just now seen a wide scale release this year (2017) after being picked up by Netflix.

Boyega’s character, Bambi,  is a twenty-one year old convict has been recently released from prison and is trying to break away from a life of crime, drugs, and gangs in order to keep his son, Day, from falling into that life.

Before I get going with the rest of my review I want to mention that I think it’s a bit unlucky that Imperial Dreams is just now getting a wider release, back in 2014 it could’ve stood on its own as a film about  someone trying to overcome their own nature and surroundings for the benefit of those they care for most. Right now though Moonlight is also a hot topic film being a front runner for Best Picture of the year. (with La La Land.)

Now while I think these are two very different films I can see why people are going to want to make direct comparisons, I did as I watched Imperial Dreams. I feel like since both take a pretty harsh look at life in the ghetto and the difficulties, both main characters are African-American men with some sort of relation to drugs and gangs and feature stellar performances from their lead actor (or actors in Moonlights case) some comparison are naturally going to be made and the fact of the matter is that Moonlight is in my opinion at least, an objectively better film.

But I think the key difference between Moonlight and Imperial Dreams is in the conflict of the stories. Imperial Dreams focuses more on Bambi’s struggle to overcome and escape from his surroundings Moonlight focuses on Chiron’s quest to find his place in his surroundings. Imperial Dreams is about someone trying to escape their world and Moonlight is about trying to find acceptance in a world that wants you out.

This does not mean that Imperial Dreams is bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact It’s actually quite good. It just didn’t blow me away. The main problem I found with the movie was that it seemed to just a bit ham-handed with telling me (The audience) just how dire the situation for Bambi was. There is a simple idea that honestly feels a bit like a cliche to bring up, but it’s  almost always better to show something in a film rather than tell the audience. Imperial Dreams shows the audience very much what is happening, but it also tells it. There are a couple of occasions where I heard Bambi read to me some of his writing which basically sums where the his character is at.

I didn’t care for this don’t that much, I already knew where Bambi is at as a character because the movie showed it to me. It’s super odd to see a movie do the equivalent of run nine tenths of a race and then stop to reminisce before finishing. I get what it’s trying to do, that being to showcase what a talented writer Bambi is so that the I would know that he has a chance to really make it out of the hood, but I just don’t think that was necessary. Everything else that happens in the movie in relation to Bambi’s writing tells me all I needed to know.

As far as the rest of the plot goes I was really quite satisfied with the story told. The ending will seem to some like it has a lack of closure but I felt like the choice to leave it more open-ended really put the focus back on the character of Bambi and where he started and what will happen next for him, because the story is really all about Bambi, everyone else is just there to push and pull him in certain directions. This is all enabled by an excellent performance from Boyega, he’s really great in it. He really manages to convey the seriousness of Bambi’s new commitment to fatherhood while not appearing too old, while maintaining a slice of immaturity key to a character that is still only 21 years old trying to tackle some of the hardest challenges of life. Unfortunately the rest of the performances were really only average, but in a way that if make you just want to focus on Boyega that much more so it kinda sorta works out.

Speaking of things that work out, the cinematography all works pretty well, but nothing really spectacular. I felt like everything in the movie felt really natural in terms of setting and how the shots looked, but there weren’t any particular moments that really stood out for me.

The soundtrack was really fantastic though, lots of very calm and chill pieces that really tied the movie together so to say. Like the cinematography it all felt very natural and as it should be so to say.

Imperial dreams is not the best picture of the year, but it is great. If you enjoy John Boyega, or movies that aren’t afraid to show some of the harsher realities of life you’ll find a really good film for you available online. You don’t even have to go out and buy the movie ticket, so please go boot up your computer or whatever box you get Netflix from and give it a chance. If absolutely nothing else you’ll be able to tell people that you’ve seen John Boyega’s earlier work before he became a superstar off of Star Wars. I hope you’re making some great choices, (like watching Imperial Dreams) and I’ll talk to you all soon. Peace out.

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