I fully appreciate why what I’m about to say will elicit plenty of eye rolls. For many of you, what I’m about to say will overhype Free Fire. You’ll finish the film shaking your head and thinking, “I knew what he said was too good to be true.” After that, you’ll start looking for reasons why I said what I said. For the most part, there are two big reasons why you’re probably going to scoff at this review. One, there’s a popular attitude that films have generally decreased in quality over the years, and, thus, there’s no way a modern film could ever rank among the greatest of all time (which is nonsense). Two, I do concede there’s a lingering possibility that various factors of our hypermasculine society have conditioned this 24-year-old penis-haver to be particularly engrossed by action movies.
I don’t care.
I saw Free Fire, then I thought about saying this for days to make sure I truly meant it. Now, I’m finally going to say it. Are you ready?
Here it goes…
Free Fire is one of the 20 best films I’ve seen in my entire life.
It’s a reminder that film is still an art form in its infancy and is an indicator of where I hope the medium is headed.
On paper, Free Fire sounds like a joke. The entire film is a feature-length shootout. That’s it. The reason Free Fire sounds so bad on paper is because film isn’t a written medium: it’s audiovisual. So many films forget that and end up essentially showing us prose we can watch. Not Free Fire, though. It takes full advantage of the unique aspects of film to tell a story that can only work as a movie.
I’ve read a dozen reviews try to explain the “plot” of Free Fire. Every single summation does the film a huge disservice. Instead, I’ll just explain the logistics. The entire film shows one long shootout unfold in real time. It takes place in an abandoned warehouse. After a gun deal goes bad, two teams of criminals unload on each other. Free Fire is set sometime in the 1970s, for no other reason than if it took place in modern times, one of the teams would use a cellphone to call for back-up and the film would be over in 15 minutes.
It’s easy to say Free Fire tells the story of a shootout, but what it’s really about is everything you see and hear. It’s about the way characters shoot each other, their reactions to being shot, their constant scrambling for cover, their frequent profanity and so on. Through these sights and sounds, Free Fire explores the inherent boyish stupidity of violence.
Except for Brie Larson’s character, the two teams consist of idiot men who are more concerned with winning the shootout to save their egos instead of saving their lives. Either team could end the shootout at any moment by realizing they’re in a “no-win” scenario and simply agreeing to walk away. But as Sharlto Copley’s scene-stealing gun dealer puts it, “It’s too late. I’ve been insulted!” Larson’s character is doomed to suffer the testosterone around her since the dudes can’t even stop themselves from being misogynistic morons in the middle of a fierce gun battle. For example, when she’s the only person in the warehouse with the skill to stitch her own bullet wound, most of the men automatically assume she’s actually nursing someone else.
One of the best compliments I can give Free Fire is that it’s somewhat hard to write about. A video essay would much better suit this review because you really need to see and hear what I’m talking about. I fully realize that my claim Free Fire is one of the best films I’ve ever seen is a big one. But I don’t say it lightly.
Before I go, it’s also important to mention that Free Fire isn’t just indicative of the future of film. It’s also one hell of a fun time that’s more exciting than most action movies with tenfold the budget. Now go forth and see Free Fire. Get a good look at the full potential of cinema.
Grade = A+