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A still from ‘Bright’.
A still from ‘Bright’.

Film Review: Bright

This Will Smith-starrer feels like an ambitious experiment that doesn't quite come off

Director David Ayer (Suicide Squad, End of Watch) creates an alternate reality in the science fiction action film Bright. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton play LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) officers—the difference between them being that Ward (Smith) is human and his assigned partner Jakoby (Edgerton) is an orc—the first one to be inducted into the force.

The film is set in present-day Los Angeles, but with an imagined social structure—with elves on top of the pyramid, orcs at the bottom and humans somewhere in between.

In one of the early scenes in this Netflix original feature, Ward is seen swatting an annoying fairy while his neighbours watch on. Ward is returning to his job after a period of recovery following a shooting incident at work. He’s loath to reunite with his orc partner, but the pair must find a way of working with each other. The film follows them on patrol one night, when they encounter a magical relic with unimaginable powers.

Ward and Jakoby must set aside their differences and overcome prejudice to protect this relic, which is being coveted by the elves, humans and orcs. Noomi Rapace plays the evil Leila, who is driven by her allegiance to a mystical force. But another elf, Tikka (Lucy Fry), is standing between Leila and the relic.

Based on Max Landis’ script, Bright is a buddy cop film that explores themes of racial tension, diversity, prejudice and societal dynamics. Edgerton and Smith are good at cop-car banter and Rapace is impressive in the stylised action scenes.

It takes a while to suspend disbelief and wrap your head around this mash-up of genres set in a world where Elfish and Orcish are spoken languages. The thumping hip-hop-dominant soundtrack does not help bridge that gap in comprehension. Bright feels like an ambitious experiment with a noble subtext, which could easily have been made with entirely human characters. Perhaps then it might have felt less laboured and contrived.

Bright is streaming on Netflix.

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