By Jay Hunter – Fences has had somewhat of a turbulent journey to the silver-screen. For over three decades the movie has been touted to Hollywood, only to be shut down before it gathered steam. Most notably, Eddie Murphy was eyed to play leading character Troy back in 1987, only for the project fell through once more. Which brings us to 2017, a different world to what is portrayed to that in Fences, although thanks to recent political movements and the #WhiteOscar row, it sadly may not be as different as we’d like to admit. Doing little to shake off it’s stage play roots, Fences prospers through powerhouse performances around the board.
With just his third time behind the camera, director Denzel Washington also stars as a proud garbage collector named Troy Maxson. Set in 1950s Pittburgh, Maxon has become resigned and bitter toward life, believing the colour barrier in baseball stopped him from becoming a player for the major leagues. Prone to mood swings, Washington stars along side Viola Davis – who is all but confirmed to walk home with Oscar gold after this performance – Stephen Henderson, Jovan, Adepo, Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson.
The bulk of the cast are directly lifted from the plays 2010 Broadway resurrection – which won both Washington and Davis, Tony Awards – in a safe, yet thoughtful move from Washington. All the cast are clearly at home with the dialogue, a movie little to do with sweeping vistas and complex camera work, Fences is very much a performance driven piece.
With each character sympathetic and relatable other than Troy himself, it’s hard for audiences to really connect with the lead. Washington’s performance burns bright, slowly hunching into a flicker. When late in the second act, we become privy to information that feels like little more than a plot device to reignite Troy – Washington’s character cracks and falls like a proud castle made on sand. Met with a reactive soliloquy from Viola Davis, in a set piece more engaging and emotive than any $200 million movie you’ll see in 2017.
Despite doing all it can to hit you over the head with symbolism and life lessons in it’s time jumping final act, Fences Pulitzer prize winning creator should be able to rest easy knowing his work has been given justice.