REVIEW: ‘Sound of Metal’


So if you go on IMDb, you will see that Darius Marder (writer and director) has not done a feature length film (or really anything, for that matter) since 2012’s crime-thriller, “The Place Beyond the Pines.”

After seeing his latest film, I think it’s safe to say that he made one hell of a return after quite a long hiatus.

“Sound of Metal” came to us on Amazon Prime back in December, and tells the tragic story of heavy metal drummer, Ruben, played by Riz Ahmed. After a heavy metal concert he performed, he wakes up the next day to find he is quickly losing his hearing, and begins to feel like his life may be over.

A rather simple, albeit tragic, concept most definitely; the execution … less so. This film is a heavy-hitting film, and one that will stick with me for quite some time because of the powerful messages, tense sound design, and flawless performances from everyone in the main cast.

I’,m just going to go ahead and say that Ahmed, without question, delivers his best performance he has ever given. He does an arrestingly intense performance here, and there were many times where I felt like I was going along with him on his difficult journey of acceptance.

There was an amazing moment toward the end where he was trying to listen to a music performance with the help of hearing implants, but all he heard was ‘the sound of metal’…roll credits. As the sounds began to slip away, so too did his upbeat enthusiasm which really hit me and even scared me a little bit (why it made me feel that way, I will soon discuss).

While Ahmed did a fantastic job in the HBO original series, “The Night Of” (which is something I also recommend), this is the performance that made me realize he has become one of the best actors working at the moment.

Supporting actress Olivia Cooke (who gives her best performance since “Me Earl and the Dying Girl”), and Paul Rici are both stellar in their respective roles. In particular, the performance of Rici as Joe nearly surpasses Ahmed in the acting category.

Throughout the runtime, Raci gives off such a somber and emotionally heartfelt performance that filled me with a bitter-sweet feeling.

There’s a scene in this movie that was absolutely flawless, which is between Ahmed’s and Raci’s characters sitting down in an office lounge discussing changes that must happen as a result of a choice Ruben makes regarding his hearing loss. As the scene progresses, you see and feel that it’s torturous for Joe to have to enforce these changes when he begins to tell Ruben of what must happen due to Ruben’s choices. This scene got me choked up, as Raci gives a gut-wrenching monologue about wanting to preserve what he has created, but the audience fully senses that it comes at a painful cost.

Yeah … he definitely deserved that best supporting actor nomination.

Can we talk about the sound? Like … damn this movie really does immerse you in the journey. One of the best aspects of this film is its usage of sound design (and many times, the lack thereof).

There were so many scenes that had the sound dip in and out to make us hear exactly what Ruben was hearing, which was totally effective and made me completely agitated. Then it got to a point where the sound changed and turned tinny and metallic, which was even more tension-fueled. That was absolutely genius.

So many entertainment pieces and even storybooks try to make you feel exactly what the character is feeling and fail miserably; this is not amongst those pieces. This film utilizes its sound and sound dips to make you feel like you are going through the same experience as Ruben, which is something so fresh and creative (and in this case infuriatingly intense, which is the point).

However, with all this praise, there are two features that absolutely didn’t work for me. The first is Ruben’s time spent in the institution that Joe runs. The dynamic between Joe and Ruben is absolutely perfect, there is no doubt about that.

Yet, in the emotional attachment department, they are the only two characters (in the center) that work.

For about half of this film, Ruben spends his time in an institution for people with hearing disabilities, and there is no emotional connection to anyone other than Joe. As I watched the sequences with him interacting with the other residents, the film unfortunately does not take time to set up development for anyone. That really took away from the emotional weight.

The second aspect that fell flat was Rubens development in the institution. There was a scene where he’s struggling to find a place in the new conditions he’s been thrust in And almost immediately it cuts to him connecting with all of the deaf children, but doesn’t show him slowly growing, adjusting and even learning to appreciate this new environment — it just sort of happens quickly.

With Ruben and his deafness, there is development. But with Ruben and the institution, there is barely anything shown at all and it’s something I really wanted to see.

Regardless, this is an incredible film with a powerful message: You are enough no matter what your conditions in life may be.

If it weren’t for the lack of development in some scenes, this film would have been near perfect, but for me, it’s teetering on the edge. It is available for free with Amazon Prime, and if you do happen to have that streaming service, I highly recommend it — it’s still a really great watch.


Jury Declares: B+