"You're listening to Compton's very own Ice Cube, Easy E and Dr Dre."
Some people see biopics as just being Oscar bait, elitist films that will usually come out ridiculously late on in the year (not this year though, because of this small sci-fi movie) that generally seek to garner awards and maybe earn some money for the studio, but not too much of course, because Oscars aren’t handed out to successful films except for ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Titanic’. The point I’m trying to make is that ‘Straight Outta Compton’ is definitely not your usual biopic.
Chronicling the formation and impact of the rap group NWA from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, we see the group’s struggle to get off the ground, the repercussions of their work, the pressure of fame and their struggle to be recognised as true artists.
I can’t say I’m a big fan of their music (yes I know, I’m odd) but if there’s one thing a film like this can do really well, it’s make people who aren’t fans support the representations of the characters and be captivated by their journey. That is something that ‘Straight Outta Compton’ does excellently. It makes you understand and sympathise with the group members as they seek fame and yearn to release their own music, you can easily feel the intensity of their passion towards what they want to do with their lives and talent.
The cast are all brilliant at conveying this, and many other emotions that stand aside the intense passion as well as their great interaction. I’m sure if you’ve heard of this movie you know Ice Cube is played by his own son and when you bear that in mind there’s credit due for portraying all of the faults and dramatic exploits of his father in the movie with the same devotion as the artistic merit on display. Newcomer Jason Mitchel may be the strongest performance though, reacting to various acts of treachery with a deep power. Group manager Paul Giamatti displays a fury and anger that you believe is the only thing that could come close to controlling these young men, but it’s in stark contrast to more intimate moments between him and the rappers, highlighting that amid all the anger he chose to lead them in this voyage.
But then again it’s not as heavy with some of the darker incidents that a biopic from afar might be. Two of the band members, Ice Cube and Dr Dre are actually producing this and after some quick research I know that some details over particular events were glossed over. It’s hardly uncommon for biopics to take liberties with the truth but often it’s for dramatic effect or to speed up the pace of the story, not quite the case here as it’s more to avoid the potential controversy that may arise from shining a light on certain events.
But putting that aside (as you must with all biopics) is what we’re seeing on screen good? Yes it is, very in fact. Amid all of the controversy, rapping and action there are moments of unusual quietness and a certain tender quality lurks around the movie. As well as that it does do the best thing a biopic can, let the audience determine the judgement to pass over the impenitent and unscrupulousness antagonism. The movie knows it’s pointless to escape its own political nature but instead aims to be just as much of a crowd pleaser as a statement. It’s easy to find counterparts between the modern media flow and events taking place decades ago. There’s also an unforgiving representation of the environment that spawned and shaped this style of music.
Like the group that inspired it, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ is strongly political, opinionated, surprisingly complex, yet still retains a mass appeal. One could even call it a unique take on the American dream.