“Our art is a reflection of our reality.”
In the ’80s, a revolutionary new group entered the limelight and changed music and pop culture forever. “Straight Outta Compton,” N.W.A’s first album, proved controversial with its brutal, yet honest, depiction of the life in Southern Los Angeles. With guidance from their manager, Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), group members Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren trail-blaze their way through the industry, scoring fame, fortune, and a place in history.
Cleverly devised and rhythmically paced by director F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton is one of the most powerful biopics in recent memory.
The cast is undoubtedly fantastic. Watching these guys perform really makes you believe that they went through all this; it’s easy for the viewer to get lost in the story and find themselves transported back in time. O’Shea Jackson portrays his own father, Ice Cube, and while there’s an uncanny similarity in his appearance, it’s ultimately more than how he looks, it’s how he acts. One could say the only reason his performance is as good as it is here is solely because he knew his father better than most, and he’s able to perfectly channel that knowledge and deliver something genuine. But I, for one, would like to see more of Jackson in other roles—no doubt we will.
Visually, the film is beautiful to look at, which comes as no surprise when you consider who the cinematographer is. Matthew Libatique, who’s worked with director Darren Aronofsky on such films as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, as well as the first two Iron Man movies, shoots this film brilliantly. He gives each scene its own unique voice. There’s a noticeable haze during the group’s earlier moments, when they’re on the streets of L.A., that provide the scenes a tinge of nostalgia. Libatique’s electrifying use of vibrant colors during the larger-than-life concert scenes completely immerses the viewer in the moment and make them feel as if there are there—experiencing it live.
If I had one gripe with Straight Outta Compton, it would be that the film loses some steam towards the end. But that’s about it. I don’t care if it sugarcoats some of the factual events that occurred with the real N.W.A; I judge movies on what they show, not on what they don’t. After all this is not a documentary feature.
This is an important, informative (musically educational), and, at the same time, entertaining movie that unapologetically touches a sensitive nerve that’s, sadly, still relevant to this day.