Neil Fox on film: Ill Manors, Red Tails

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Ill Manors

Sometimes a creative voice emerges that cannot be ignored, with the power to ensure that flaws and creaks are overlooked and the big picture is grasped, and the importance of making big statements through art is at the forefront of the cultural debate.

Ben Drew is such a voice. You may know him as Plan B, the musician who has been slowly carving a unique niche for himself as rapper/singer, inspirational speaker and now director. His directorial debut follows a fascinating and powerful Tedx talk back in March where he addressed issues of youth disenfranchisement with eloquence and insight.

And he has insight in abundance. He has infused this piece with that insight, and fury at government, media and societal perception of modern British youth.

The film tells six different stories, juggling racial and social themes and showing how tough it is for young people currently, but never taking the easy route of blaming everyone else. He shines a light on everything, opening up a wide debate that hopes to include all.

The film suffers from cinematic cliché but the human truth at play more than makes up for it.

A great debut that accompanies the music and speeches with power and panache. An important film that deserves to be seen and packs far more grit than the posturing Kidulthood or Adulthood.

Red Tails

At the other end of the importance spectrum is this self-important historical ‘issue’ film made by a man from the opposite end of the story he is telling.

Overseen by George Lucas, an insanely rich white man, it tells the story of the the Tuskagee airmen, an all-black pilot unit, who faced oppression and seclusion throughout the Second World War until being called into action in a pivotal conflict.

It’s an important story, but it’s ridden with cliché and an overpowering sense of its own importance which renders the whole thing perilously close to parody.

Terrence Howard, as the colonel who leads the airmen, is superb, and it’s nice to see Cuba Gooding Jr back at the multiplex.

But somehow I can’t shift the feeling that this has been made by the wrong film-makers.

A Fantastic Fear Of Everything

The second release by a British musician turned film-maker is the debut film by Crispian Mills, he of Kula Shaker and British acting aristocracy stock.

It’s about as far from Ill Manors as you can get and sees Simon Pegg delivering a superb turn as an author who is an absolute wreck, forced to face the outside world when the outside world shows interest in turning one of his books into a film.

Like Ill Manors, there is ambition here and most of it wins out over the first film foibles such as cliché and coincidence that rear their head frequently.