Shot Caller: A Movie Review

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If you’re like me, you are often times unimpressed and uninspired by the movie selections on sites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, almost as if their motto is “ All the movies you almost want to see.” Every so often however, a movie surfaces which surprises you, and exceeds your expectations. Shot Caller is one of those movies. I was so pleasantly surprised, I was shocked I hadn’t heard of this movie during it’s release. If you’re searching for a movie to watch, this one should top your list!

The movie follows the story of an upperclass man who lives the idyllic life: Wonderful and lucrative job, loving and happy wife, and a child who brings them both joy. He is essentially living the American Dream. All of this is shattered one night when an auto accident kills his best friend, and because there’s alcohol involved, he ends up going to prison. This is the inciting incident that sets the movie in motion. The movie follows and documents the transformation the man undergoes as a direct result of his incarceration. It attempts to show you the change, and how it affects him, as well as his family and those around him. It is a gritty and unflinching look at how the American prison system changes a human, and in many ways, negatively impacts humanity.

The acting in this movie is impressive, led by two actors whom you probably know, at least by sight. The protagonist is played by Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who gained notoriety as Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones. In a supporting role in this film as a prisoner is Jon Bernthal, who achieved fame from his role in the popular show The Walking Dead, as well as the title character in the Netflix series “The Punisher.” Coster-Waldau shows his versatility in this film, undergoing a physical and emotional transformation. He has several scenes that are quite moving, most notably a scene with his son in which he is visibly at war with his own emotions. He successfully plays an honest character, never overacting or playing a stereotype. Based on this role, we will be seeing a lot more of this fine actor. Bernthal adds another layer to this movie, playing a convict beaten by the system. He is convincing, both from a physical and emotional standpoint, and adds a layer of tension to this film. Both these actors spearhead a cast that really commits to this prison film, and allows you to catch a glimpse into this world.

The screenwriting in this film works nicely, and although it’s a fairly basic concept, the way that it is explored and resolved is honest, gritty and feels truthful. The “Hollywood factor” is removed from this film, which I really appreciate. There are times that I felt they could have done more with his transformation from a family man to a hardened convict and a leader of a prison gang, but you can only do so much in a two hour film. It’s  fascinating to watch how a man’s survival instincts drive him to drastically adapt and change to survive, even affecting his relationship with his own family. It’s a view we haven’t quite seen the same way in film before this movie.

I was very impressed by this film, not only as “surprise” on Amazon, but as a movie in general. I found the acting to be honest and solid, the storyline to be engaging and aggressive, and the subject to be thought-provoking. If you like a movie that not only supplies you with a good amount of action and drama, but also unfolds an intricate story that will get you talking about afterwards, this is the movie for you. It is definitely worth the time to see it.

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