Talking Movies: Mangrove, The Adam Project and Red, White and Blue

Spling reviews Mangrove, The Adam Project and Red, White and Blue as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a drama, a sci-fi adventure and a crime drama.

Starting off with a film now on Showmax…


Mangrove tells the true story of The Mangrove Nine, who clashed with London police in 1970.

Director: Steve McQueen

Stars: Gary Beadle, Darren Braithwaite and Richie Campbell

– The Small Axe film anthology allows McQueen to have full creative control, telling stories that have personal, biographical and political significance – making this a passion project.
– Known for 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Widows, McQueen is steadily building a quiet empire of artful, thoughtful and stirring dramas.
– Mangrove is an ensemble drama reminiscent of Judas and the Black Messiah in its political slant as well as The Trial of the Chicago 7 as court proceedings ensue.
– The focus is on a restaurant and meeting spot set in Notting Hill, which became a political pawn, the target of unprovoked police raids and led to more support for the Black Panther movement and angry protests.
– Immersing audiences in the age by way of authentic mis-en-scene, this is testament to the exquisite detail of Mangrove when it comes to hair, wardrobe and production design.
– Leveraging the talents of relatively unknown actors, who rise to the occasion with fierce performances, their anonymity further enhances the sense of realism and blast from the past.
– While the ensemble drama has its favourites, it operates from some distance in order to share the team effort.
– Based on a true story, Mangrove is much more powerful than docudrama, firing up on the street confrontations and long-standing prejudices of a society under reform.
– What it lacks in intimacy, it makes up for through fiery performances, a sense of authenticity, taut drama and McQueen’s smooth and self-assured direction.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a movie now on Netflix…


After accidentally crash-landing in 2022, a time-traveling fighter pilot teams up with his 12-year-old self for a mission to save the future.

Director: Shawn Levy

Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana

– Netflix uses its viewing data to craft winning formulas, which result in big budget checkbox films like Red Notice and The Adam Project.
– Giving audiences more of what they want seems like a good thing but runs the risk of turning movies into soulless themepark ride style fodder.
– The Adam Project borrows from better films such as Back to the Future, The Terminator, Guardians of the Galaxy, E.T. and Star Wars, creating a movie that is vaguely familiar with a fresh skin.
– Reynolds is always charming, likeable and bankable, even if his hit rate is worse than Nicolas Cage’s, offering a peppy, fun and cheeky reworking of what we’ve come to expect.
– His young counterpart, Walker Scobell, offers some much-needed vitality and a sense of wonder to this fun, entertaining whirlwind of awkward mini-me comedy and blast of sci-fi action.
– As with most time travel movies, it’s not worth dissecting the logic and timelines.
– The Adam Project is a magpie, leaning on themes and character dynamics, but takes a fresh angle and fun approach with some light-hearted banter to make it enjoyable even if overfamiliar.
– The quality of the cast, timelessness of the concept and overall competence of hanging it altogether will probably ensure a sequel, yet its fuzzy originality gives it an emptiness and fast food zing that make it just as forgettable.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally another film now on Showmax…


A young man joins the Metropolitan Police in a bid to change the system from within.

Director: Steve McQueen

Stars: John Boyega, Steve Toussaint and Stephen Boxer

– Red, White and Blue is a biographical drama based on the life of Leroy Logan, whose father’s brutal police beatdown prompted him to risk everything in a bid to fight racism from within the police force.
– Led by John Boyega, best known for Star Wars, the British actor didn’t have to audition for this role and honours McQueen’s faith with a regal and resilient performance.
– Playing opposite Toussaint, whose stature and presence is also felt in an excellent supporting role, the father-son dynamic is laden with nuance and complexity.
– The concept of an idealistic man on a moral quest within a state organisation’s staunch political structures has weight and could easily be extrapolated into a police procedural series with a difference.
– Given the BLM movement and racial tensions on both sides of the pond… Red, White and Blue’s title and true story ripple far and wide.
– Taking snippets from Logan’s life, this character portrait offers glimpses of the man’s altruistic mission in the face of rising adversity and othering.
– The upbeat pacing keeps things on the move, making you wish they had the luxury of time to further entrench the drama and suspense, sometimes feeling like excerpts from a much larger work.
– Yet, the essence of the character and story carries through under the watchful eye of McQueen who’s fine-tuned his ability to say so much with so little – coming in at a brisk 80 minutes.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

MANGROVE… fierce performances, powerful dramatisation, immersive world-building and impassioned storytelling compel this tense ensemble drama… An excellent 8!

THE ADAM PROJECT… a charming cast, cheeky banter and fun time travel conundrums compel this entertaining yet forgettable and over-familiar magpie of a sci-fi adventure… A satisfactory 6!

RED, WHITE AND BLUE… strong key performances, timely themes and a powerful true story swell this noble, stoic and tense character portrait crime drama… An excellent 8!

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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!