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Movie Review: Creed

Creed is a story about legacy, about the shadows that the past casts over the present.

Directed by Ryan Coogler
In Theatres

"Time takes everyone out. It's undefeated."

At its most basic, Creed is the story of the son of a legend trying to become his own man in the world while following his father's footsteps.

But that does it no justice.

Creed is a story about legacy, about the shadows that the past casts over the present.

It's about mortality and the loneliness of outliving your closest and dearest.

It's about a son wanting the approval of a father he never knew.

It's a love letter to a city and to a legend.

Creed is all these things and so, so, so much more.

And it really shouldn't have gone this way.

Creed is the seventh film in a series that everyone gave up for dead somewhere around the fourth instalment, anchored by an icon who discovered the quick money that could be gotten by throwing subtlety and skill out the window to make room for bigger and bigger explosions.

For many, many years I would defend Sylvester Stallone whenever anyone would start mocking him.

I'd say "but… but… Rocky" and "but… but… that last scene in First Blood" and "but… but… Cop Land" and "but… but… Assassins".

After a while, I gave up.

The man had walked away from respectability and it wasn't up to me to be the one of the last guys still holding out hope for a career reassessment.

But here we are.

With Creed, not only is the franchise brought back from the dead, but Stallone is probably going to be nominated for his first Oscar since the original Rocky.

Stallone is everything I've been waiting for decades to see.

Vulnerable, honest, real, complicated, self-doubting, weak, strong.

Rocky Balboa is both triumphant and tragic in Creed.

He is, at long, long last, an actual person with a real person's concerns.

An old man reading the newspaper in a cemetery, talking to Adrian and Paulie.

A reluctant mentor, a reluctant father figure.

A legend who is still coming to terms with past mistakes, with the need to push everyone away.

And then there's The Scene.

I'm not going to go into it here, it'll be everywhere once the nominations are announced and it will be shown at the Oscars ceremony when the best supporting actor nominations are listed.

But anyone who's seen Creed, they'll know what I'm talking about here.

It's a side of Stallone that has never been on screen before.

It is truly something to behold.

Now, don't think this is a one-man show.

While Stallone is getting a lot of the attention, what with his history and late career humility and all, he isn't the only performance everyone should be clickity-clacking about.

Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed.

I've been a fan of Michael B. Jordan since Chronicle, I know some who have been a fan since The Wire.

At only 28 he has an ability to bring both an emotional reality and a looseness to everything he does.

There are moments in Creed that feel so damn real, like the camera just happened to be rolling and we're seeing Stallone and Jordan just hanging out in a boxing gym.

It's found in the intimacy of a scene with Tessa Thompson when they share headphones to listen to a song.

The self-hatred and doubt and rage and fear are never far from the surface and we get to watch as he learns, as he grows.

And the chemistry between Sly Stallone and Michael B. Jordan is worth the price of admission alone.

They have a very tangible respect and admiration for each other, as characters and as people.

And the romance in Creed, between Michael B. Jordan's Adonis and Tessa Thompson's Bianca is no standard boxing movie romance, with her crying while her boyfriend is being battered, or her worrying at home while he broods between bouts.

It is something I've never seen in a boxing movie before.

She is a strong woman, someone who calls out Adonis when he's being a self-obsessed dumbass, someone who stands and cheers when he is in the ring.

They are true partners, having each other's backs, supporting each other's dreams.

Before Rocky, you never saw anyone like Adrian in a boxing movie.

She became the standard by which every boxing movie girlfriend and wife would be judged for nearly forty years.

But with Bianca, Creed has created a new standard, a new blueprint of what a boxing movie partner should be.

Michael B. Jordan is the second actor to survive The Fantastic Four disaster with their career not only intact but growing and developing, the first being Kate Mara with The Martian.

That the two of them, among the best of their generation, could not only survive one of the worst films of ever but follow it up with roles in two of the best films of the year really is something worth pondering and going clickity-clack about.

But I'm not going to get into that here.

Maybe some other time, but I'm sure you have places to go and people to see.

But I will say this before you run off - 2015 is becoming the year of Michael B. Jordan.

Those Call of Duty: Black Ops III ads you've been seeing for like a month?

Thats Michael B. Jordan.

Anyway, back to Creed.

Ryan Coogler's film is honestly something to behold.

It opens with an amazing shot, the camera in a hallway of a juvenile detention centre as a group of kids are being led down the hallway.

A fight breaks out in the cafeteria and the camera races along the hall and down into the chaos as two children beat the snot out of each other.

There are many long shots like that, tracking Adonis Johnson as he prepares in a storeroom, moving to the bar where a small ring is set up, stopping ringside to watch the fight through the ropes or following characters from curb side, into doorways and up stairs into boxing gyms.

There is a boxing match about halfway through the film where the camera never leaves the ring, the entire fight told in one fluid shot.

An amazing tribute to Raging Bull and an amazing statement about how Adonis' entire world has become about boxing.

At 29, Creed is Ryan Coogler's second feature, his follow-up to the very much admired Fruitvale Station.

I suspect the future of film making is in good hands, very good hands with someone like him at the helm.

Creed might be the best film in the series.

Rocky has everything going for it, though, being the original and all.

I don't know, I can't judge something like that.

Rocky holds a spot in the Pantheon of Great Films.

And, I've got to confess, I walked away from the series around the time Rocky Balboa became a cold war soldier.

All the hope and promise that Rocky held for me was nearly undone by Rocky IV.

But Creed is so, so, so damn good.

It is great and amazing and breathtaking and magnificent and astonishing and a dozen other words that are synonyms for "sweet baby Jesus on a trampoline, I love this film".

It's a tight film, but it breathes.

It takes the time for real character moments, for a romance, for drama and for humour.

So, Kellie, grab Bob and take him out for a night. See Creed. You can thank me later.