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“Fast Color” Refreshingly Blends Genres

There are surprisingly few attempts to do small scale superhero stories. Almost every time out, it’s blockbuster or bust. Even supposedly smaller scale offerings are still huge, like Deadpool or Logan. Even Chronicle was hardly an independent title. It’s a missed opportunity, too. So, when along comes something like Fast Color, an indie that explores similar themes and topics, it’s a breath of fresh air for sure. Armed with really strong work from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, you’ll often forget that you’re not watching something epic. Her chops more than make up for the occasional narrative shortcoming. This movie isn’t what you’re expecting, but that’s a compliment to all involved.

The film is a science fiction drama/thriller, though in the way it’s presented, it’s essentially also a superhero origin story of sorts. When we meet Ruth (Mbatha-Raw), we can tell she has been on the run for some time. Escaping a captor, she moves from town to town, gifted with a superhuman ability that she doesn’t fully understand. Accidentally using it one night in a hotel, she draws the attention of government agents, in particular Bill (Christopher Denham), who wants her for reasons she can’t possibly fathom. Faced with no other option, Ruth heads home, a place she hasn’t been back to for years. When she arrives, it’s clear why. Though her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) wants to protect her, and they have an unlikely ally in sheriff Ellis (David Strathairn), things may be moving towards a head that none of them can control. Julia Hart directs a script she co-wrote with Jordan Horowitz. Supporting players include Saniyya Sidney, while Michael Fimognari provides the cinematography and Rob Simonsen composed the score.

There’s a lot to admire here. Even though the scale is small, there’s always a hint at something larger at play. Julia Hart keeps things intimate, even when Ruth’s superpowers are being utilized. The screenplay she wrote with Jordan Horowitz is contained, though also offers up a glimpse at what could be to come. Interestingly, while this is not meant as a franchise starter or anything of the sort, titles that clearly have that in mind have utilized some very similar narrative choices. It’s just one other way that makes this such an interesting work. Then, there’s the lead performance, which is the best part of the film.

For a few years now, Gugu Mbatha-Raw has been impressing with her performances. Here, in Fast Color, she’ll blow you away. The way she depicts the confusion in her character and the slow embrace of her gifts, it’s truly compelling stuff. Ruth could easily be at home in the X-Men or some other mutant/superhuman group like that, but her original story here is more than interesting enough on its own. Hart and Horowitz occasionally meander off into less interesting directions, but if their script sometimes zigs when you want it to zag, Hart’s direction is focused enough to prevent things from going off the rails.

Starting today, audiences in the mood for a lower key superhero flick before next week’s Avengers: Endgame would do well to give Fast Color a shot. The movie isn’t perfect, but it does present you with something different. The blockbusters are coming, with one in particular just days away now, so before they take over, why not try this on for size? For some of you, it may even end up being the preferable way to tell this story. Between Mbatha-Raw and the different slant on the story, this won’t just appeal to sci-fi fans in the least. Give it a shot and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Fast Color, in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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