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Uncut Gems: Adam Sandler unforgivably robbed of Oscar nomination in Safdie brothers' five-star gem




Ahead of its worldwide release on Netflix on January 31, the Indie's film reviewer, 16-year-old Bishop's Stortford College student Charlie Hughes, went to see Uncut Gems...

“I made a crazy risk, a gamble, and it’s about to pay off,” announces Adam Sandler’s masterfully infuriating Howard Ratner.

It is such delusional optimism that characterises Sandler’s performance in the new film from the Safdie brothers, which will undoubtedly prove to be one of the best of 2020.

Adam Sandler as jeweller Howard Ratner in the Safdie brothers' comedy drama Uncut Gems
Adam Sandler as jeweller Howard Ratner in the Safdie brothers' comedy drama Uncut Gems

With their previous film Good Time, the Safdie brothers transformed the reputation of Robert Pattinson, who had for a long time been unfairly labelled an incapable actor following his turn in the Twilight series. The brothers have achieved the same feat here with Adam Sandler.

Despite decades of painfully unfunny comedies (with the exception of Punch-Drunk Love – one of my favourite films), he delivers a truly mesmerising performance.

As jeweller Howard Ratner, Sandler expertly explores the greed, desperation and anger that clouds his judgement and forces him into bad decision after bad decision. It is a performance for the ages and one that was unforgivably robbed of an Oscar nomination earlier this month.

Sandler is impeccably directed by Josh and Benny Safdie in this masterwork of anxiety-inducing cinema.

Their ingeniously chaotic narrative begins with the discovery of a black opal in an Ethiopian mine, which soon serves to uproot Howard’s life. Having illegally exported the opal in the belly of a fish, his first mistake is to lend it to NBA star Kevin Garnett (playing himself), who is convinced it possesses mystical powers. From here, things go from bad to worse, as Howard makes more gambles and becomes embroiled in conflicts with gangsters, pop stars and even his own family.

All of these plot strands ratchet up the stress as the film progresses, culminating in a dizzying finale that is unlike any I have seen in a cinema before. Here, the Safdie brothers create a sense of exhilaration that is akin to being hooked up to the mains. It is undeniably nerve-frazzling.

The energetic narrative is aptly aided by some of the film’s other gems, such as Benny Safdie and Ronald Bernstein’s frenetic editing and Daniel Lopatin’s oddly cosmic score, which is strongly evocative of Vangelis’s 1982 music for Blade Runner. These elements lend a feeling of wonder and excitement to the film, both increasing the tension and conveying the black opal’s beguiling effect on those who come across it.

Featuring an explosive performance from Sandler, I ask you with all sincerity to avoid this film if you suffer from high blood pressure, as Uncut Gems is likely to be the tensest viewing experience you will ever have.

Star rating *****


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