Cast: Ed Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Elizabeth Olsen, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Mark Raso
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Matt Ryder (Sudeikis) is convinced to drive his estranged and dying father Benjamin Ryder (Harris) cross country to deliver four old rolls of Kodachrome film to the last lab in the world that can develop them before it shuts down for good. Along with Ben’s nurse Zooey (Olsen), the three navigate a world changing from analog to digital while trying to put the past behind them.
Kodachrome is an incredible example of how to tell a story without explicitly telling a story. While most good stories are based on their script and dialogue, Kodachrome takes it a step further. Through its breathtaking and meaningful cinematography and strong performances from Harris and Sudeikis, Kodachrome takes a rather simplistic and unoriginal story and elevates it into something better.
The film follows Matt (Sudeikis), a struggling music manager who finds out his father Ben (Harris) is dying and wants to spend time with his son before he dies. Matt has no interest in spending time with his father who abandoned his family, but does so with the idea that he will get a business opportunity out of it. The two of them along with Ben’s nurse Zooey (Olsen) travel together to Kansas to get four rolls of Kodachrome film developed before the last store in the country to develop Kodachrome film closes down that part of their business. The thing that obviously stands out about the film is the way it was shot. I have not seen any of Alan Poon’s other films, but after seeing Kodachrome, I am very interested in seeing if they match up. Very few films can actually add details to the story from the way certain scenes are shown, but Kodachrome’s execution of this task is marvelous. The opening shot is a series of tracking shots with smooth cuts that make it look like it is one continuous shot. For a moment, I was not sure if I was watching Kodachrome or Birdman, and from there it maintains this same level of quality. Many shots are angled in a way where the focus in on a reflection or a mirror, making your eye focus on two places at once. Another scene shows Matt struggling with a decision and the camera starts to slowly zoom in on him, as if to represent the walls of life closing in on him and forcing him to make a decision. There are many other examples of this throughout the film, but honestly as someone who went in knowing nothing about Poon or really this movie in general, I was blown away with how good the camerawork is. Moving on to the performances, Sudeikis and Harris give believable as well as moving performances. Harris shows the complexity of a dying man who wants to make things right, but also cannot get over his own narcissism and ego while Sudeikis shows us the pain that many people from divorced families go through. They are a complex duo who must overcome their differences if they are ever going to establish a relationship, and the two of them show just how difficult that is through their strong, emotional performances. The only real issue with this film is that it is not super original. While I appreciate some of the more original ideas such as driving to Kansas to get Kodachrome film developed, the general theme and feel to the story has been done many times before. I knew about halfway through the movie how it would end, which is something I movie like this needs to try to avoid. It is hard to get invested into a film when you can more or less predict how the entire plot based exclusively on how it is established. While the technical aspects are something to admire, the fact that the story has been done to death really takes away from an otherwise spectacular film.
Overall, if you want to have a movie based upon traveling with a camera, you better have the camerawork to work alongside it. Fortunately, Kodachrome is powered by the brilliant work of Alan Poon as well as continued strong performances from Harris and Sudeikis. This is the type of movie that will tug at your heartstrings, especially if you dealt with a dying family member, but there have been better examples of this is the past. While it is by no means a bad movie, Kodachrome is a serviceable movie with elements that make it better than what it probably should be.
Overall Score: 7.5/10