Critics Consensus

1917 and Just Mercy Are Certified Fresh

Plus, Underwater is well-crafted but derivative, and Like A Boss is a missed opportunity.

by | January 9, 2020 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a perilous mission (1917, featuring the voices of George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman), a battle for justice (Just Mercy, starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx), undersea danger (Underwater, starring Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel), and a corporate rivalry (Like a Boss, starring Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne). What are the critics saying?


1917 (2020) 89%

Fresh off a couple of surprise Golden Globe wins for Best Director and Best Motion Picture – Drama, 1917 expands into wide release this week to afford broader audiences the opportunity to see writer-director Sam Mendes’ ambitious spectacle on the big screen. Ingeniously crafted from several long takes to spin its narrative as a single, unbroken shot, the story follows a pair of British soldiers in World War I (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who are tasked with delivering an urgent message to a battalion behind enemy lines in order to prevent a massive ambush. It’s the most anticipated film opening this month by a wide margin, according to our fans on social media, and it’s already won heaps of awards (particularly for its stunning cinematography, courtesy of the legendary Roger Deakins) en route to what will likely be a strong showing at the Oscars in February. It’s also Certified Fresh, with critics calling it an immersive and visceral journey that is, of course, technically impressive, but also grounded in a moving tribute to the sacrifices made by the soldiers engaged in the war.


Just Mercy (2020) 85%

Another film expanding into more theaters this week after a limited release back in December is Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy, which has already earned star Jamie Foxx a SAG Award nomination. Based on a true story, the film chronicles the efforts of a Harvard-educated attorney named Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) to exonerate Walter McMillian (Foxx), who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a teenager in 1987. It was a landmark case for Stevenson, who had set out to represent those he believed were wrongly accused of the crimes they were sent to prison for, and it spanned several years as he battled the systemic racism that allowed McMillian’s conviction in the first place. Just Mercy also impressed the critics enough to earn the Certified Fresh distinction, with reviews praising its timely, timeless themes and its outstanding performances. Though it skirts the edges of feeling overly earnest, it manages to overcome its less than subtle messaging with enough nuance and compelling drama to make it well worth a watch.


Underwater (2020) 47%

Former Twilight star Kristen Stewart has, by all accounts, done an excellent job carving out a unique path in Hollywood, starring in a number of acclaimed indie films and earning rave reviews for her performances. But she still makes time for genre fare every once in a while; last year, it was the Charlie’s Angels reboot, and this week, it’s a deep-sea thriller called, appropriately, Underwater. Stewart stars alongside Vincent Cassell, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, Mamoudou Athie, and John Gallagher Jr., who together comprise a research crew stationed at a facility seven miles below the surface of the ocean. When an unseen force rips their vessel to shreds, the surviving members must figure out a way to get to safety… and avoid whatever it was that did the damage. Critics are fairly split on Underwater, with some crying foul at its all-too-familiar setup and reliance on horror cliches, while others call it a competently crafted thriller that, yes, wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but also mimics them quite effectively. In other words, your mileage may vary here, but if you’re looking for something scary at the theaters this weekend, this is probably at least better than last week’s The Grudge.


Like a Boss (2020) 21%

Tiffany Haddish has been a comedy queen since her breakout role in 2017’s Girls Trip, and Rose Byrne has proven her own chops in several projects, most notably in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Throw in a scenery-chewing Salma Hayek, and you’d be forgiven for assuming the result would be a surefire hit. The reviews for Like a Boss, however, would indicate otherwise. Haddish and Byrne play Mia and Mel, a pair of odd-couple BFFs who run a modest cosmetics company together but are deep in debt. When they decide to sell 51% of their company to Hayek’s makeup mogul Claire Luna and their business begins to tank, Mel and Mia find themselves at odds with each other, even as they must work together to take Claire down and save their brand. Like a Boss isn’t without its share of laughs, with its heavy dose of physical humor and raunchy jokes, but critics say the film doesn’t explore Mel and Mia’s relationship deeply enough to make their redemptive turnaround feel earned. Plus, thanks to a repetitive series of clashes and reconciliations and a story whose turns are stale and predictable, it feels longer than its 83-minute runtime. Haddish and Byrne have solid chemistry, and they and Hayek appear to be having fun, but that’s one of the few bright spots Like a Boss offers, so if you aren’t a particularly big fan of any of the stars, you may find yourself counting the ways in which it could have been a better movie.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (2020) , a documentary about naturalist Anne Innis Dagg’s groundbreaking studies on wild giraffes in the 1950s, is at 100%.
  • VHYes (2020) , a coming-of-age film shot in the style of a VHS camcorder, with faux 1980s TV content peppered throughout, is at 100%.
  • Les Misérables (2020) , a drama about a trio of cops assigned to an impoverished Paris neighborhood who encounter unexpected trouble during an arrest, is at 84%.
  • Inherit the Viper (2020) , a crime thriller about a pair of opioid-dealing siblings who encounter resistance when they try to leave the business, is at 57%.
  • The Sonata (2020) , a horror film about a violinist who discovers a possibly cursed piece of music that her late father composed, is at 57%.
  • The Informer (2020) , starring Joel Kinnaman and Rosamund Pike in a thriller about a former soldier in jail who becomes wrapped up in a messy FBI operation, is at 54%.
  • Three Christs (2020) , starring Peter Dinklage and Richard Gere in a based-on-true-events drama about three men at a mental hospital who all believe they are Jesus Christ, is at 54%.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Endgame 20th Century Fox Hear Us Out Musicals Film Paramount Plus Rom-Com IFC Films Turner zero dark thirty police drama black Exclusive Video Grammys festival joker japanese Television Academy Nickelodeon Winter TV teaser Discovery Channel Pop asian-american Pet Sematary zombie Hulu casting Sundance golden globes Mary Tyler Moore Photos Avengers Tomatazos quibi based on movie PlayStation hist Sci-Fi VOD rom-coms Heroines Western American Society of Cinematographers The Walt Disney Company south america Watching Series rt archives spanish language concert TCA Red Carpet foreign crime drama PBS critics The Arrangement TV Land werewolf batman Spring TV indie Academy Awards AMC kids what to watch green book APB Fox Searchlight Masterpiece james bond Box Office singing competition finale Starz Logo Music cooking ABC FX on Hulu IFC Song of Ice and Fire TCA 2017 Syfy RT21 trailers Classic Film 4/20 worst movies Women's History Month Infographic australia A&E talk show Stephen King documentary Drama psycho Shondaland Trivia Disney streaming service toronto YA robots travel ABC Family Peacock See It Skip It Marvel Studios Legendary period drama Food Network hispanic Holiday new star wars movies independent streaming YouTube Red 72 Emmy Awards Travel Channel Best and Worst Acorn TV TV renewals E3 Amazon Studios HBO animated television slashers blockbuster The Academy news binge adventure FOX TV One Horror women cancelled TV shows kaiju TCA Winter 2020 Crackle monster movies Lifetime halloween tv comic books chucky The Purge Arrowverse Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Fox News GoT Tarantino heist movie blockbusters elevated horror San Diego Comic-Con golden globe awards Film Festival natural history Elton John Paramount Network Christmas canceled TV shows directors USA Network 2021 nature witnail Awards war Anna Paquin Year in Review Fantasy Showtime dceu halloween transformers nfl revenge aliens latino TV Marathons boxoffice crime thriller Interview Alien First Look Martial Arts Amazon Prime LGBT docuseries CNN spanish Certified Fresh reviews Star Trek composers Awards Tour FX football Columbia Pictures TLC biography cats Amazon Prime Video TruTV CBS child's play DGA Spike jurassic park NBC 2015 crime zombies historical drama emmy awards superhero Dark Horse Comics Trailer National Geographic game show Marvel WarnerMedia political drama Disney Channel Reality Competition Freeform Superheroes 71st Emmy Awards cinemax Schedule DC Universe harry potter TIFF comics CMT rotten BET nbcuniversal ITV facebook Rocketman Creative Arts Emmys deadpool french thriller MSNBC Ellie Kemper TCM documentaries 007 cancelled television BBC America dragons Cosplay Kids & Family book Lionsgate sitcom Pixar romantic comedy true crime cancelled obituary Chernobyl stand-up comedy Netflix video on demand 2017 Universal comedies Broadway Valentine's Day SXSW Disney Plus Polls and Games BBC One spider-man Summer award winner mockumentary OneApp 2019 stop motion cartoon Television Critics Association kong E! romance Shudder RT History NYCC Apple TV+ king kong razzies rotten movies we love supernatural Set visit all-time SundanceTV screen actors guild 2018 Pirates superman sag awards VH1 Black Mirror DirecTV mutant crossover Family Extras festivals parents History Toys ViacomCBS Writers Guild of America Mudbound GIFs Nat Geo game of thrones sports versus mission: impossible Epix 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Comic Book reboot toy story Cannes Disney Walt Disney Pictures Ghostbusters tv talk italian Bravo Sundance TV USA FXX SDCC DC Comics Binge Guide jamie lee curtis dark Spectrum Originals comic Esquire best TBS name the review MCU anthology Comedy Central medical drama screenings Winners politics OWN Nominations social media First Reviews Sony Pictures Fall TV DC streaming service dc dramedy Teen Premiere Dates Oscars dogs spinoff Chilling Adventures of Sabrina HBO Go free movies classics The CW ghosts remakes boxing book adaptation hidden camera El Rey 93rd Oscars Brie Larson Holidays venice Mary Poppins Returns video scary movies Podcast unscripted sequels laika 2016 45 GLAAD Vudu adaptation Hallmark ID Disney+ Disney Plus Amazon Marvel Television Captain marvel BAFTA disaster BBC ratings 99% MTV Turner Classic Movies Opinion TNT ESPN Comics on TV Trophy Talk cars breaking bad doctor who PaleyFest Biopics Apple fast and furious scorecard comiccon Calendar strong female leads sequel YouTube Premium worst technology Britbox die hard movie a nightmare on elm street docudrama theme song Video Games Sneak Peek Comedy Action Pride Month Tubi Character Guide The Witch Tumblr stoner Netflix Christmas movies Apple TV Plus Pop TV TCA Awards Rock films series Rocky Countdown Animation telelvision psychological thriller universal monsters spy thriller CBS All Access Emmy Nominations 2020 hollywood satire Superheroe Mary poppins HBO Max franchise The Walking Dead Black History Month New York Comic Con President Funimation ABC Signature Emmys Sundance Now cops richard e. Grant VICE godzilla Country Star Wars LGBTQ Ovation Lucasfilm christmas movies spain Crunchyroll science fiction Paramount Election cancelled TV series Warner Bros. criterion blaxploitation renewed TV shows Adult Swim Hallmark Christmas movies Reality twilight Lifetime Christmas movies CW Seed children's TV anime 24 frames A24 space Musical pirates of the caribbean Mindy Kaling YouTube canceled 21st Century Fox diversity Baby Yoda Thanksgiving cults indiana jones prank Mystery WGN discovery popular serial killer vampires X-Men BET Awards archives movies Super Bowl fresh Cartoon Network Quiz miniseries justice league