“The Best of Enemies” Is Not The Best Of Movies


By Julia Matuszek, Video Editor

Every year, there are stand-out films that are based on true stories, and often times those are the movies that we remember and resonate the most with because of how personal and touching they are. Just this year, at the Oscars 4 out of the 8 Best Picture nominees were about real people, and true events: The Favourite, Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice, and the winner, Green Book. It seems that if you take an interesting and emotional true story, you have a recipe for success within the movie industry. And that’s exactly what “The Best of Enemies” tried to do – keyword being tried.

“The Best of Enemies,” tells the story of when a civil rights activist and community organizer Ann Atwater, played by Taraji P. Henson comes head to head with Exalted Grand Cyclops of the KKK in Durham C.P. Ellis, played by Sam Rockwell. The two disagree about civil rights, and quite often butt heads with each other. One day, the black-only school burned down in Durham, North Carolina (despite school segregation already being unconstitutional in 1971). The only other school open in the city was a white-only school. The black parents and children started to fight for the right for their children to integrate the white-only school while the black-only school was fixed, so as not to hold the kids back. Of course, that sparked debate and controversy. A judge ruled that the city will hold a charrette which is a summit where people from both sides of the debate come together and discuss their POVs as well as come up with possible solutions to the problem, that both sides will be happy with. In the end, the panel which is made up of 5 people from each side, with two leaders (one being Atwater and the other Ellis) will make the final decision, needing a majority vote in order to implement the new solution.

Although I won’t give away the ending (the trailer pretty much does that), I’m sure you can guess what happens, it’s predictable. But, that’s the way the story is, I don’t blame that part on the movie. Many “based on a true story” movies can be predictable. But the ones that are successful both commercially and critically are the ones that either are so unique the ending is a complete surprise or they are so captivating you forget you are watching a movie and get completely drawn into the story. Unfortunately, “The Best of Enemies” didn’t have either.

The performances by Henson and Rockwell were mediocre. You could tell they were trying too hard to be like the real people they were portraying rather than adapting who they were as people. They were stiff, and the chemistry between the two felt forced. In addition to that, the movie’s run time is 2 hours and 13 minutes, and you can feel every minute. Some movies need to be 2 (or more) hours to accurately tell a story, but I believe “The Best of Enemies” could have been told in an hour and a half or even less. The movie had many scenes that unnecessarily lengthened the movie, without helping the plot at all. I think if the movie was even half an hour shorter, I would have enjoyed it much more.

But the movie wasn’t all bad, there were some parts I enjoyed. One of them being the portrayal of Bill Riddick by Babou Ceesay, who was the organizer of the charette. His performance was what Henson and Rockwell lacked, it was authentic without being forced. He was able to pull off a complex character, with ease. The music also was nice, it fit in seamlessly into the scenes where it played. It added that extra flair it needed, without taking over the scene. John Legend even had a song for the movie, called Preach, which I recommend more than the movie itself.

I wouldn’t say the movie is a must-see, but I wouldn’t say it was a movie to never watch. It’s the kind of movie you can wait till it comes out on Netflix to watch, you don’t have to see it right away, or at all if you want. Honestly, if you are in the mood for an entertaining, captivating movie based on real people and true events, I recommend watching: Unbroken, American Hustle, Catch Me If You Can, Schindler’s List, Wolf of Wall Street, Spotlight, or 127 Hours.