Review by Gordon Justesen
Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Denzel Washington
Director: Denzel Washington
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 120 Minutes
Release Date: May 20, 2003
understand you like to fight.”
the only way some people learn.”
you pay the price for teaching them.”
Washington’s directorial debut, Antwone
Fisher, proves once again that some of the best movies come as a result of
true experiences. The real Antwone Fisher wrote the screenplay of his life
story, hoping to have it told through the screen. Fisher was working as a
security guard at Sony when the screenplay caught the attention of both the
producers and Washington, who was no doubt touched by the very personal story.
The story is that of a journey of a good but emotionally troubled young man in
the Navy, traumatized by life events ever since his birth. Antwone Fisher, similar to that of Good Will Hunting, ranks in the same league and is a wonderfully
moving film sure to stir your emotions.
Newcomer Derek Luke
gives an outstanding breakthrough performance as Fisher, who at the beginning of
the film has a vivid dream where he, as a young boy, is reunited with every
single one of his ancestors, only to have the dream broken by the sudden blast
of a shotgun. Tormented by these dreams, and his past, Fisher retaliates by
getting into numerous fights with fellow sailors. Following his latest scuffle,
he is ordered to visit naval psychiatrist Dr. Davenport (Washington). Feeling as
if he doesn’t have to say anything, Fisher’s first several sessions with
Davenport are nothing but dead silence, until the doctor eventually gets Fisher
to open up.
As the young man
opens up about his past, we discover that he really didn’t have it that easy.
He was born in prison, not ever knowing why his mother was locked up in the
first place. His father was shot dead two months before he was born by a jealous
ex-girlfriend. After being abandoned by his mother, he was sent to a foster
home, only to be tortured physically and mentally by a cruel foster mother.
Another traumatizing factor came later in his life when his lifelong friend was
shot dead in front of his eyes while committing an act of robbery. Fisher always
felt like that was another act of abandonment.
What is he to do to
put the past behind him for good? Davenport suggests he should face the past by
going back to Cleveland to locate his mother, confront her, and possibly
forgive, so that he can get on with his life. With a new girlfriend, Cheryl (Joy
Bryant) eagerly by his side, Antwone proceeds to do just that. He does
eventually confront his long lost mother, in an emotionally shattering scene.
There is also a sharp surprise of joy that I will leave you to discover by the
When a high profile
actor takes a shot at directing, you never know quite what to predict, but
Denzel Washington proves himself as a man for the task. He doesn’t execute any
unique directing techniques, and he doesn’t have to, because this story
doesn’t demand it. Washington shoots the movie traditionally, with
uncomplicated shots that serve this story extremely well. He does a very fine
job in staging the frequent flashback and dream sequences, which both induce
quite an impact.
Fisher is an extraordinary
piece, indeed. It’s a film bound to touch anyone who watches it.
As always, Fox
ignites a top form job with the handling of this video transfer. Shown in a
gloriously sharp widescreen format and enhancing the terrific cinematography by
Philippe Rousselout, the picture quality never lets up from the opening frame,
and is clear and beautifully rendered from that point on. Colors are at the
right tone, and there is no sign of image bleeding, distortion or compression.
As in the Fox way, it’s nicely done as always.
A much nicely tuned
5.1 mix is at hand here, and given that the film relies heavily on dialogue more
than anything else, that’s really saying something. Dialogue is as clear and
clean as can be, and occasional background music use is well heard. Various set
pieces, such as the interior of a naval ship and a sequence set in a nightclub
payoff, in addition.
A nice listing of
extras, including a commentary track with Denzel Washington and producer Todd
Black, three featurettes, “Meeting Antwone Fisher”, “Hollywood and the
Navy”, and “The making of Antwone Fisher”, and trailers for Drumline, Master and Commander, In America, and Le