Sundance 2022- “892” is John Boyega’s Finest Hour: Film Review

Audiences may best know John Boyega from his performance as Finn from the latest Star Wars trilogy, but the actor is far more talented than those films would have you believe. For in 892, when Boyega is able to take off the Stormtrooper helmet, he is an outright dynamo on the silver screen.

892 is a white-knuckle thriller that follows the true story of former Marine, Brian Brown-Easley (John Boyega) as he takes the extreme measure of holding a Wells Fargo and its employees hostage to demand justice for his mistreatment. While the role of Brown-Easley could have easily come across as antagonistic, Boyega’s natural charisma and affability allows the audience to continually sympathize with his character.

This sympathy also allows first-time writer/director Abi Damaris Corbin to powerfully condemn a socioeconomic system that ignores and devastates the lives of our veterans. The frantic gaze of desperation in Brown-Easley’s eyes, along with several quick flashback sequences, are a stark reminder of the injustices that plague the American Dream.

The first half of 892 is particularly powerful, as a series of escalating events all occur in a single setting with Brown-Easley and two bank employees (impeccably played by Nicole Beharie and Selenis Levya) as the only characters on display. The lack of police and media presence in such a volatile situation creates an cinematic atmosphere of uncertainty and paranoia.

As the narrative begins to open up and encompass a greater quantity of characters, the intense intimacy that acted as rocket fuel for the first half begins to dissipate. It’s at this point that the overall message of the film takes precedence over the immaculate character development that Corbin initially creates.

Even though the film falls into some of the tropes of the hostage crisis subgenre, 892 is still engaging thanks to a great ensemble and some of the most professional cinematography from an independent film in some time.

The Silver Lining

In his final on-screen role, Michael Kenneth Williams leaves an impact as hostage negotiator, Eli Bernard. Williams imbues Eli with a calm and collected demeanor that implores Brown-Easley and audiences alike to pay attention to him. As the injustices of our society bubble to the surface, Williams and his quiet fury act as the audience’s emotional surrogate. While 892 may try to juggle too many subplots in its last hour, all the scenes with Williams only elevate the film’s overall narrative.

892 is a part of Sundance Film Festival’s 2022 U.S. Dramatic Competition lineup. The film is coming soon to a screen near you.

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