Uncut Gems (2019) by the Safdie Brothers

A masterclass in how the style of filmmaking can be used to create a mood; Uncut Gems is an anxiety inducing, fast paced, fist clenching story about a jeweller’s gambling addiction and the lengths he will go to, to succeed.

Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a New York Jewish jeweller with a marriage in shambles, a brash personality and a massive gambling addiction. The combination of which leads him to make one rash decision after another. However, what could be the story of just another trainwreck waiting to happen, is elevated to a standout film because of the performances, cinematography and editing.

The film follows Ratner at an arm’s length at most times, seemingly handheld, this cinematography choice puts us eerily close to Ratner and his experiences. We feel him being crowded and overwhelmed as well as alone and at peace. Complimenting this camera work is the editing which is masterfully paced and cuts from beat to beat, never letting us relax for too long. While I found that the climatic scene dragged for a bit too long, I think this was because it was so tense that my brain desperately wanted the pressure to end.

Aside from the breakneck editing and camera work, the film benefits from the cast that brings excellent nuanced performances. I have never been to New York but they are all people that I imagine could exist in one form or another, somewhere in the world.

The Safdie brothers do a masterful job of orchestrating the various instruments they have as filmmakers to create one cohesive experience. While most films inspire joy, awe, sadness, excitement or a mixture of those. Uncut Gems evokes the raw anxiety of missing a step as you walk down the stairs, mixed with the sweet relief of finding your footing, only to carry on walking blindly.

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