Critics Consensus

1917 and Just Mercy Are Certified Fresh

Plus, Underwater is well-crafted but derivative, and Like A Boss is a missed opportunity.

by | January 9, 2020 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a perilous mission (1917, featuring the voices of George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman), a battle for justice (Just Mercy, starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx), undersea danger (Underwater, starring Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel), and a corporate rivalry (Like a Boss, starring Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne). What are the critics saying?


1917 (2020) 89%

Fresh off a couple of surprise Golden Globe wins for Best Director and Best Motion Picture – Drama, 1917 expands into wide release this week to afford broader audiences the opportunity to see writer-director Sam Mendes’ ambitious spectacle on the big screen. Ingeniously crafted from several long takes to spin its narrative as a single, unbroken shot, the story follows a pair of British soldiers in World War I (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who are tasked with delivering an urgent message to a battalion behind enemy lines in order to prevent a massive ambush. It’s the most anticipated film opening this month by a wide margin, according to our fans on social media, and it’s already won heaps of awards (particularly for its stunning cinematography, courtesy of the legendary Roger Deakins) en route to what will likely be a strong showing at the Oscars in February. It’s also Certified Fresh, with critics calling it an immersive and visceral journey that is, of course, technically impressive, but also grounded in a moving tribute to the sacrifices made by the soldiers engaged in the war.


Just Mercy (2020) 83%

Another film expanding into more theaters this week after a limited release back in December is Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy, which has already earned star Jamie Foxx a SAG Award nomination. Based on a true story, the film chronicles the efforts of a Harvard-educated attorney named Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) to exonerate Walter McMillian (Foxx), who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a teenager in 1987. It was a landmark case for Stevenson, who had set out to represent those he believed were wrongly accused of the crimes they were sent to prison for, and it spanned several years as he battled the systemic racism that allowed McMillian’s conviction in the first place. Just Mercy also impressed the critics enough to earn the Certified Fresh distinction, with reviews praising its timely, timeless themes and its outstanding performances. Though it skirts the edges of feeling overly earnest, it manages to overcome its less than subtle messaging with enough nuance and compelling drama to make it well worth a watch.


Underwater (2020) 46%

Former Twilight star Kristen Stewart has, by all accounts, done an excellent job carving out a unique path in Hollywood, starring in a number of acclaimed indie films and earning rave reviews for her performances. But she still makes time for genre fare every once in a while; last year, it was the Charlie’s Angels reboot, and this week, it’s a deep-sea thriller called, appropriately, Underwater. Stewart stars alongside Vincent Cassell, T.J. Miller, Jessica Henwick, Mamoudou Athie, and John Gallagher Jr., who together comprise a research crew stationed at a facility seven miles below the surface of the ocean. When an unseen force rips their vessel to shreds, the surviving members must figure out a way to get to safety… and avoid whatever it was that did the damage. Critics are fairly split on Underwater, with some crying foul at its all-too-familiar setup and reliance on horror cliches, while others call it a competently crafted thriller that, yes, wears its inspirations on its sleeve, but also mimics them quite effectively. In other words, your mileage may vary here, but if you’re looking for something scary at the theaters this weekend, this is probably at least better than last week’s The Grudge.


Like a Boss (2020) 19%

Tiffany Haddish has been a comedy queen since her breakout role in 2017’s Girls Trip, and Rose Byrne has proven her own chops in several projects, most notably in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Throw in a scenery-chewing Salma Hayek, and you’d be forgiven for assuming the result would be a surefire hit. The reviews for Like a Boss, however, would indicate otherwise. Haddish and Byrne play Mia and Mel, a pair of odd-couple BFFs who run a modest cosmetics company together but are deep in debt. When they decide to sell 51% of their company to Hayek’s makeup mogul Claire Luna and their business begins to tank, Mel and Mia find themselves at odds with each other, even as they must work together to take Claire down and save their brand. Like a Boss isn’t without its share of laughs, with its heavy dose of physical humor and raunchy jokes, but critics say the film doesn’t explore Mel and Mia’s relationship deeply enough to make their redemptive turnaround feel earned. Plus, thanks to a repetitive series of clashes and reconciliations and a story whose turns are stale and predictable, it feels longer than its 83-minute runtime. Haddish and Byrne have solid chemistry, and they and Hayek appear to be having fun, but that’s one of the few bright spots Like a Boss offers, so if you aren’t a particularly big fan of any of the stars, you may find yourself counting the ways in which it could have been a better movie.


Also Opening This Week In Limited Release

  • The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (2020) , a documentary about naturalist Anne Innis Dagg’s groundbreaking studies on wild giraffes in the 1950s, is at 100%.
  • VHYes (2020) , a coming-of-age film shot in the style of a VHS camcorder, with faux 1980s TV content peppered throughout, is at 100%.
  • Les Misérables (2020) , a drama about a trio of cops assigned to an impoverished Paris neighborhood who encounter unexpected trouble during an arrest, is at 84%.
  • Inherit the Viper (2020) , a crime thriller about a pair of opioid-dealing siblings who encounter resistance when they try to leave the business, is at 57%.
  • The Sonata (2020) , a horror film about a violinist who discovers a possibly cursed piece of music that her late father composed, is at 57%.
  • The Informer (2020) , starring Joel Kinnaman and Rosamund Pike in a thriller about a former soldier in jail who becomes wrapped up in a messy FBI operation, is at 54%.
  • Three Christs (2020) , starring Peter Dinklage and Richard Gere in a based-on-true-events drama about three men at a mental hospital who all believe they are Jesus Christ, is at 54%.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

sequel San Diego Comic-Con Amazon Prime Video docudrama psychological thriller A&E mockumentary crossover NYCC Arrowverse ABC Family Trivia BET social media Opinion what to watch independent Mudbound foreign political drama Holiday police drama Biopics Nominations ESPN Anna Paquin biography Cartoon Network Sneak Peek VH1 Disney Plus slashers Peacock First Look Netflix Christmas movies game of thrones directors Crackle Holidays green book Food Network Mary Tyler Moore serial killer Schedule Brie Larson award winner Trailer dragons supernatural TV transformers Ovation Film Festival spider-man Summer GLAAD rotten movies we love Emmys unscripted Paramount Lifetime Christmas movies SDCC Comics on TV spanish language nature Spike Musicals hist Watching Series Comedy Extras Super Bowl Horror Vudu Nickelodeon anime disaster Music Christmas crime strong female leads crime drama DC Comics History Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Drama animated facebook IFC comic CNN Infographic joker DC Universe based on movie versus 2017 Oscars Pop WGN APB Kids & Family travel Shondaland witnail Apple TV Plus Polls and Games doctor who Red Carpet Avengers latino FXX NBC diversity space quibi Election ITV politics 2016 Rock aliens Emmy Nominations Captain marvel Epix 71st Emmy Awards Quiz X-Men 2015 streaming TCA 2017 Showtime Animation 45 Turner 007 Western Certified Fresh christmas movies VICE canceled TV shows Premiere Dates Apple TV+ Spectrum Originals RT21 El Rey Sundance talk show blockbuster Crunchyroll cancelled TV shows binge Family children's TV sports canceled zombies cars OWN Masterpiece Fox News jamie lee curtis SXSW A24 YouTube Premium toy story President Adult Swim Tubi revenge Action tv talk DC streaming service First Reviews Walt Disney Pictures boxoffice sag awards RT History Academy Awards Trophy Talk Apple Sundance TV Chernobyl Shudder Stephen King TCA Logo Thanksgiving cops Rocketman halloween harry potter TruTV Lionsgate DGA YA movie Writers Guild of America Tomatazos kids The CW Video Games Marathons Sundance Now Cosplay The Witch screen actors guild ratings Superheroes psycho CW Seed screenings HBO medical drama See It Skip It The Purge TIFF 24 frames Nat Geo Discovery Channel Fantasy natural history spain Valentine's Day historical drama 20th Century Fox Baby Yoda game show Podcast Mindy Kaling 2018 FX werewolf anthology TCA Winter 2020 Endgame teaser elevated horror TNT GIFs romantic comedy renewed TV shows Pride Month New York Comic Con Fall TV cancelled TV series zero dark thirty Grammys Rocky cartoon science fiction Toys The Walking Dead Pirates theme song Marvel Martial Arts comics OneApp dc TLC Freeform Heroines TV Land CBS All Access Netflix romance spy thriller Lucasfilm USA movies Sony Pictures name the review Classic Film Mary Poppins Returns Comedy Central cats Lifetime The Arrangement 2019 series finale dogs Hallmark Christmas movies Hallmark reboot Reality zombie Song of Ice and Fire Spring TV Black Mirror Rom-Com Amazon Warner Bros. richard e. Grant DirecTV cinemax Musical National Geographic justice league Set visit Superheroe comiccon 21st Century Fox war USA Network cooking crime thriller casting Amazon Prime MCU Binge Guide adventure stand-up comedy WarnerMedia Pet Sematary festivals IFC Films GoT Turner Classic Movies Star Trek book HBO Max true crime E! Creative Arts Emmys Marvel Television SundanceTV BBC America Winners vampires Cannes breaking bad television Disney Country Esquire discovery Pixar Marvel Studios dramedy YouTube Red documentary BBC Reality Competition 2020 singing competition YouTube Amazon Studios Box Office MSNBC miniseries CBS Disney Channel Universal Columbia Pictures PaleyFest LGBT composers adaptation Hulu Paramount Network Bravo mutant Sci-Fi cancelled television TCM Tumblr Character Guide free movies Year in Review dceu period drama Comic Book ABC spinoff cults Calendar Ghostbusters Ellie Kemper Awards TBS Star Wars Interview Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt American Society of Cinematographers Starz Awards Tour Television Academy robots AMC FOX Teen Tarantino sitcom cancelled MTV blaxploitation E3 golden globes Acorn TV Women's History Month thriller Disney streaming service Elton John ghosts Winter TV batman LGBTQ indie Photos technology Mystery Film Best and Worst TV renewals PBS video Syfy Britbox south america Countdown Dark Horse Comics Mary poppins CMT Disney+ Disney Plus hispanic