Movie Review: Cherry
Joe and Anthony Russo use their superhero experience to bring Nico Walker’s novel to the screen with the epic scale of an Avengers movie, only to empty every hidden pocket in the cargo pants of male identity.
Starring: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Jeff Wahlberg, Michael Rispoli
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo
Running time: 2 hr 20 mins
Now Streaming on Apple+
By Katherine Monk
You could call it an antihero movie, or more accurately, it’s almost an anti-superhero movie, because the people behind this much-anticipated Apple+ original are Joe and Anthony Russo, the men behind much of the Avengers franchise (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame).
The Russos have carved out the modern notion of heroism for an entire generation weaned on Iron Man’s glowing breast and educated by the light of an active internet device. Cherry proves how much the Russos have learned about heroes, then it deconstructs the contents in each pocket of the cargo pants called male identity.
Cherry proves how much the Russos have learned about heroes, then it deconstructs the contents in each pocket of the cargo pants called male identity.
The guy wearing the pants in this case is Cherry (Tom Holland) — it’s not really the character’s actual name, but we never get to know that that might be. He’s our Everyman narrator — a symbol more than an individual. Even his uniform just reads “SOLDIER” on the name badge. Cherry, is, in short, a metaphor for lost innocence in the face of war, a man whose mind was ‘popped’ by going to Iraq as a medic and coming back broken, suffering from PTSD and addicted to opioids.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen this story brought to the big screen, and hopefully, it won’t be the last — because suffering isn’t a one-size fits all condition. But what Tom Holland accomplishes in the lead role is entirely unique as he pulls us through one ring of fire after another — from mild mannered city university student, to fresh recruit, to hard core junkie and bank robber.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen this story brought to the big screen, and hopefully, it won’t be the last — because suffering isn’t a one-size fits all condition.
No, it’s not a pleasant slide down the moral slope, but the Russos have nonetheless brought incredible beauty to their ‘serious’ film through the imagery. Cherry red is the recurring motif, a deeply saturated maraschino colour that bleeds all over the title cards — but is then absent for the action, most of which is filmed in de-saturated colours, blinding whites and washed out khaki.
After a cinematic infinity obsessing about the nature of super-heroism, the brothers know the language of action movies, from the moving cameras to the hero angles, so when they use the same superhero movie techniques to show us tragedy, horror and weakness instead of otherworldly omnipotence, it makes a big impression.
It also lends this rather intimate story an epic feel — which feels entirely right for a film about a man going to war and coming back altered; a modern-day Odysseus seeking to reunite with his Penelope — Emily (Ciara Bravo) — after years of battle. Yet, for all the scale and the stunning cinematography from Newton Thomas Sigel, Holland keeps this story grounded in the human experience.
Even when the events are beyond our grasp and the images impossible to process, Holland’s presence brings them home through his intuitive performance. It’s so close to perfection, and so pure, it’s almost like watching nature — a blade of grass in the wind, a fly landing on a leaf, a wounded ant moving with broken legs. Movies like this are often very hard to watch because of all the horror, but the Russos strip the full metal jacket off their explosive content, and keep it human — where we not only have the energy to keep watching, but all the empathy that should go with it.
Main photo: Tom Holland as Cherry in Joe and Anthony Russo’s new feature based on Nico Walker’s novel.
THE EX-PRESS, March 12, 2021