A vicious blend of kinetic direction, smart writing, compelling performances, energetic camerawork & groovy soundtrack, Straight Outta Compton is one of the finest biopics to surface on screen in recent years, for it is captivating from its opening moments, is sprinkled with clever wit & offers an intriguing look into one of the most influential groups in hip-hop music history, and is amongst the most hip & entertaining movies of 2015.
Straight Outta Compton chronicles the rise & fall of the hip-hop group N.W.A which emerged from the violent streets of Compton, California in Los Angeles during the mid-1980s and ultimately went on to bring gangsta rap subgenre into mainstream music. The plot focuses on three of its founding members namely Eazy-E, Ice Cube & Dr. Dre, the numerous controversies the explicit lyrics of their songs invited, and its decline due to financial disputes within the gang.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, this biographical drama features a deftly structured story that’s smoothly narrated & swiftly paced and is totally devoid of any dull moments. Driven by its electrifying tracks, the whole ambiance of the picture is highly charged & aggressive in tone and manages to make its voice heard loud & clear without going in your face. The gang’s critical stance against the police is relevant even today and the reflection of the volatile society it emerged from is evident in their songs but there’s more to this flick.
Straight Outta Compton does succeed in offering an in-depth glimpse into what N.W.A was trying to express with their explicit, provocative music but it also doesn’t shy away from illustrating the flaws of its own members, albeit not as extensively. The background research is carried out in exhaustive detail but a few artistic license is taken here or there to enhance the drama which do work out in its favour in the end. Another positive sign about its quality is that its story is told in such an engaging manner that its 147 minutes of runtime simply fly by.
Cinematography exhibits dynamic use of camera that remains in sync with what’s unfolding on the screen, for it is chaotic when things are on the verge of explosion & easygoing when dealing with calm moments. Every scene accompanied by N.W.A songs is better than the ones without it and the tracks are arranged in a fitting order plus greatly assist in enhancing the whole experience & keeping its potent vibe alive. Editing keeps the plot closely-knitted for the most part & paces it amazingly well but it does slow down near the end where it looked as if it had spent all its energy.
Coming to the performances, Straight Outta Compton features a relatively fresh ensemble in Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell & Paul Giammati, with all of them chipping in with very convincing work in their given roles. Whether it’s the chemistry these guys have with each other or the sequences that require them to prove their mettle individually, Hawkins, Jackson & Mitchell are able to keep the audience’s gaze firmly fixed on them and render their real-life figures with sublime effectiveness while Giammati provides reliable support as Jerry Heller, the manager of N.W.A.
On an overall scale, Straight Outta Compton is a delightful surprise, for it is far better than expected and is told with such passion, confidence & panache that it’s difficult to not be swept by its strong tide. The script is an absolute gem, for it brims with elements that scream N.W.A from first frame to the last, wisely handles the positive & negative escapades of the group, and puts just about enough meat on its characters’ arcs. Highly enjoyable, wildly entertaining & thoroughly rewarding, Straight Outta Compton is an instant classic that’s destined to garner a cult following and will stay around for years to come. To summarise it all in a sentence, “Damn, that shit was dope.”