Thursday, June 20, 2024

“SURROUNDED”

THE STORY – Five years after the Civil War, freedwoman and former Buffalo Soldier Moses “Mo” Washington travels west to claim a gold mine disguised as a man after a group of murderous thieves ambushes her stagecoach. Mo is forced to hold legendary outlaw Tommy Walsh captive while the remaining surviving passengers seek help.

THE CAST – Letitia Wright, Jamie Bell, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jeffery Donovan & Brett Gelman

THE TEAM – Anthony Mandler (Director), Andrew Pagana & Justin Thomas (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 100 Minutes


Audiences go in with certain expectations when they sit down to watch a film, let alone a Western. Rugged cowboys, duels at high noon, horse chases, etc. Only so much can be altered while keeping the essentials that make a Western a Western. It’s a fine line that can not be easily balanced. “Surrounded” feels like an attempt to mix a multitude of subgenres under the setting of the Wild West post-Civil War. On the one hand, it’s a drama about a Black woman in a world that doesn’t value her existence. On the other hand, it becomes a fast-paced and smooth action film in the vein of something like “Extraction.” While “Surrounded” doesn’t perfectly nail every swing it goes for, it lands most of them.

“Surrounded” stars Letitia Wright as Moses “Mo” Washington. Mo is a former enslaved woman and soldier making her way to a new chapter in her life. As she travels West, under disguise, she looks to lay claim to a gold mine and start brand new. Once Mo’s stagecoach gets hijacked, her plan is pushed to the side as she is tasked with guarding the legendary outlaw Tommy Walsh (played by Jamie Bell) as the other stagecoach survivors get help. What ensues is the pair fighting off the elements, bounty hunters, and each other’s distrust towards one another. Letitia Wright does her best to carry the film with her performance. It’s an vastly different performance compared to her most recent work in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Mo is an incredibly solemn and reserved character. Of course, this is just a facade for the repressed anger Mo is dealing with and lets out throughout the film. Whether through yelling or the physicality of fighting off her attackers, audiences feel the commanding presence of Wright’s performance. Bell, on the other hand, is solid in the film but nothing out of this world. While it is a passable performance, the film hinges entirely on the dynamic between Wright and Bell. Most of the film’s brisk runtime is only with the two leads as random antagonists occasionally drop in and out to keep audiences dialed in. The late Michael K. Williams also appears in the film. It’s a brief but memorable scene that is easily one of the highlights of the film. His presence is felt immediately, and the tension he helps deliver before such an engaging action sequence is bar none. Few just have that gravitas that Williams had. Every other actor in the film, including Jeffery Donovan and Brett Gelman, don’t make enough of a presence in their albeit minimal screen time. Despite all of these tremendous actors’ involvement, “Surrounded” is the Wright and Bell showcase.

“Surrounded” is one of the more visually appealing films of the year so far. Max Goldman’s cinematography makes the action sequences in the film come off as sleek and fast-paced. It differs compared the usual genre standards of Western shootouts. The way the camera whips around in continuous shots and cuts at the right moments makes for more varied set pieces as the characters face different enemies in the film. The locations captured in the film look beautiful on screen as well. The film’s pacing is well suited, as “Surrounded” is only 100 minutes long. It’s well-directed for a somewhat familiar story. The screenplay is similar to other films that follow the growing relationship between the captor and the captive. Seeing the inevitable respect between the leads develop throughout the film is predictable, although the final scene between Wright and Bell pays off satisfyingly. The film shines brightest when the physicality between both actors is brought to the forefront when “Surrounded” decides it actually wants to be an action film. Ultimately, the film suffers from juggling what type it film it wants to be.

The concept behind “Surrounded” isn’t a bad idea. Westerns are rarely focused on the perspective of a Black protagonist, let alone a Black woman. Wright has shown she has the talent to carry a project like this before. If only the film around her matched the energy, she brought to every scene. Despite all the issues with the film, “Surrounded” is still worth seeing for Wright’s performance and the quick-paced action sequences throughout. Sure, it isn’t “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid,” but it’s at the least, is an entertaining watch.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Letitia Wright gives a physically gripping lead performance that pairs with well-choreographed action sequences. The film's cinematography is great, capturing the beauty and isolation of the Wild West.

THE BAD - The story, for the most part, is typical genre fair, leaving the audience wishing for more by the time the credits roll. Jamie Bell is alright in the film, which hurts it due to the dynamic between his character and Letitia wrights being the major focal point of the story.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

101,150FollowersFollow
101,150FollowersFollow
9,315FansLike
9,315FansLike
4,686FollowersFollow
4,686FollowersFollow

Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Letitia Wright gives a physically gripping lead performance that pairs with well-choreographed action sequences. The film's cinematography is great, capturing the beauty and isolation of the Wild West.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The story, for the most part, is typical genre fair, leaving the audience wishing for more by the time the credits roll. Jamie Bell is alright in the film, which hurts it due to the dynamic between his character and Letitia wrights being the major focal point of the story.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"SURROUNDED"