On a work trip to Mexico, mild-mannered businessman Harold (David Oyelowo) finds himself caught between his shady bosses Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine (Charlize Theron), the Mexican cartel, and an ex-mercenary (Sharlto Copley). After a rash decision, Harold fights to survive as a chain of increasingly dangerous events unfold around him.
Gringo doesn’t exactly reinvent the crime genre, with its shady businessmen and drug dealers it’s mostly a story that’s been seen before, but it’s execution and cast make Gringo a lot of fun.
The cast is brilliant, making each of their somewhat clichéd roles into something more substantial and entertaining. Who knew David Oyelowo had such great comedy chops? With his high-pitched screams as he’s thrust into more and more life-and-death situations, you can’t help but laugh at Oyelowo’s nice guy Harold while still feeling sympathetic towards him because he really doesn’t deserve the bad stuff that keeps happening to him. A lot of the tension in Gringo comes from having a lead like Harold who’s so normal and relatable that you are almost constantly worried about what’s going to happen to him next. Theron’s Elaine is another great character, wrapping men around her finger while spitting out many non-PC but hilarious lines. She’s unlikable but surprisingly admirable.
Some characters are a bit of an afterthought. Sunny (Amanda Seyfried) and Miles (Harry Treadaway) have their own subplot which eventually entwines with what’s happening with Harold, but they never really feel fleshed out, while Bonnie (Thandie Newton), Harold’s wife, is just used as a punchline in the end.
Gringo’s plot is over the top and outrageous and so is its humour. It’s darkly funny with laughs coming from some of the unexpected violence and witty dialogue between characters. The situations these characters get into are bonkers but still stupidly funny, the stunts look great too, making Gringo an exciting action/crime/comedy hybrid. 4/5.
When Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the heir to the throne of Botswana, falls in love with and marries Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London it causes an international stir. Together they have to fight for their love and for Seretse’s right to be King of his country.
A film like A United Kingdom sinks or swims on its lead performers and their chemistry but luckily Pike and Oyelowo feel like such a believable couple. From the first moment they meet, you can believe they’re falling in love and their relationship grows stronger throughout the film as they each encounter bigotry from both their families.
Alistair Canning (Jack Davenport) and Rufus Lancaster (Tom Felton) are the British bureaucrats who have interests in Botswana and who rules it. They are the faces of British politics in A United Kingdom and are as smarmy and conniving as you’d expect them to be. They believe they know all and know better than the people of Botswana and it’s a pleasure to see them proven wrong.
Naledi Khama’s (Terry Pheto) relationship with her brother and her sister-in-law Ruth is an unexpected delight. Naledi is as against their marriage, and Ruth in particular, just like anyone else to begin with but as their story progresses, Naledi and Ruth learn to work together and gain an understanding of one another. Seeing female characters put aside their differences and work together is always a delight. They become strong allies and each use their power and status to try and do the best for the people of Botswana.
A United Kingdom is an incredible true story that really should be more common knowledge. Not only is it a wonderful love story about love conquering all, but it’s about politics and international relations and racial tensions in Britain and around the world. It is also a beautiful film and the cinematography of both London and Botswana is stunning. It is seriously a very nice-looking film, and the contrasts between England and Botswana work so well together but it never makes one inferior to the other.
A United Kingdom is a wonderful film with some brilliant performances. It might make such a true and powerful story more like a fairy tale but that almost adds to the romance. 4/5.