Eye For Film >> Movies >> Marighella (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Wagner Moura - best known in film for the likes of Elite Squad and, more recently, as Pablo Escobar in Netflix series Narcos - moves into the director's chair for Marighella and, unusually for a directorial debut of an actor, doesn't appear in the film himself.
The central honours go to Seu Jorge, who lends his mellifluous tones and an intense performance to Marxist poet and revolutionary Carlos Marighella, who waged a campaign against the American-endorsed 1964 military coup - a story that has taken on additional resonance since the election of ultra-rightwinger Jair Bolsonaro, who has declared that he wants a Brazil "similar to the one we had 40, 50 years ago".
There's a lot to fit into this biopic, which covers the initiation of Marighella's mobilisation against the dictatorship and then tracks Marighella and his cohorrts through until his death. Moura begins as he means to go on - with action, something which largely remains the focus of his film as it aims for thrills rather than more cerebral political complexity. His cinematographer, fellow Narcos Alumnus Adrian Tejido's skittish camera tracks the group as they steal arms from a train. Even in the film's quieter moments, the camera is rarely still and never misses an opportunity to swoop in on an actor's face - a testimony to Moura's obvious faith in his cast, but after a while you can't help but wish Tejido would hang back a bit rather than forcing the melodrama at every possible moment.
The ensemble cast support each other well, although the villain of the piece, Lieutenant Lucio (Bruno Gagliasso), who pursues Marighella with a sadistic blood lust, is pushed to the edge of cartoonishness, particularly in a scene where the script direction presumably called upon him to "laugh maniacally".
With so much to be covered in terms of time and plot, there's little room left for character exploration, so that Marighella emerges saint-like and largely unscrutinised - although the action scenes deliver, doubtless the main intention of a film which is destined to be shown as a miniseries in Moura's homeland.
Credit to the actor-turned-director for thinking big with his first directorial project but in pursuit of the bigger picture, quite a lot of the smaller intricacies are lost - but this is nevertheless a solid debut that shows Moura has more to offer than just a face to camera.Reviewed on: 16 Feb 2019