Winston Duke’s Terrific Performance Propels Thought-Provoking ‘Nine Days’ (Review)

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I think we can all agree that job interviews are among the most stressful things we encounter in life, right? Whatever your goal, you want to nail it. During the time leading up to job interviews, the nerves and anxiety reach all sorts of emotional points. And then, to make matters worse, once an interview is over, the anxiety over how you did begins. Did you do well? Did you answer everything correctly? What more could you have done? Granted, not everyone who goes through interviews experiences all these emotions. Some handle interviews better than others. All of this plays out on the big screen in the thought-provoking Nine Days. However, its subject material is not about a job interview; it’s related to souls interviewing to be given life on earth. Interviewing in the “great beyond” sounds more stressful than your typical job interview process, doesn’t it?

Nine Days shows the story of Will (Winston Duke), who lives by himself in a house in the desert, as he interviews and judges souls to select one to live on earth. Moving at a moderate pace, we watch as Will interviews five different individuals throughout the course of a nine-day period. This plot might sound somewhat similar to last year’s Pixar gem, Soul. However, what you might not know is that this more mature look at souls and life itself debuted before Soul did at last year at Sundance and was a hit with audiences before the pandemic hit stateside a couple months later; in fact, the movie won the best screenwriting award at the festival. Now after over a year-and-a-half wait the movie finally makes its debut in theaters this weekend–and it was well worth the wait.

From top to bottom, everything about Edson Oda’s directorial debut is outstanding. The script, very much deserving of its best screenwriter award at Sundance, will have you thinking about life and its purpose(s) long after the credits roll. The score by Antônio Pinto is without a doubt the best in a movie so far this year. Will anything else be able to top it? We shall see. The cinematography by Wyatt Garfield is strikingly beautiful at times, even if the setting of the movie never travels more than just a few yards from the main setting at the house from time to time. All of this is elevated by every performance in the movie, especially Winston Duke as the main character, Will.

Duke quickly gained fame as M’Baku in Black Panther and since then his career really has taken off. While he’s great in one of Marvel’s biggest-earning movies of all-time, Duke’s performance in Nine Days is a career-best for a bright star whose career is still just getting going. Playing a conflicted, emotional man who has been given the power to choose souls while also watching videotapes of the lives he has given, this performance covers both ends of the spectrum and makes for one of the best performances in a movie this year. Other excellent performances in supporting roles include Zazie Beetz, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, and Bill Skarsgård. You likely have seen some of these actors in big comic book movies, comedies, or perhaps even dressed up as a clown. But it’s great seeing them in a drama, a genre which demonstrates they can do so much more.

Nine Days is without a doubt one of the year’s best movies so far. I remember when this movie made its debut at Sundance, and the reaction afterwards was great. When the pandemic hit, this was one of the movies I was bummed when learning that it would be pushed back. Aside from The Green Knight, this indie movie is arguably the best thing out there right now, so you might want to check and see if it is playing at a theater near you. But if you are hesitant to venture out, what with the Delta variant causing cases to rise across the U.S., take heart. This fine cinematic feature will be available via VOD very soon. Either way, don’t miss this spiritual journey.

 

Rating: 4.5/5 

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Fan of Atlanta Braves baseball, movies/tv, and all things Batman. Healthcare Program Coordinator by day, honey walnut shrimp aficionado by night.