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) 84%

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) 48%

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) 22%

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

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