Another day, another film named after a Bruce Springsteen song…
Apart from sharing that aspect, there are very few things that link the last film I reviewed (Blinded by the Light) and this film, so there won’t be much comparison drawn in that department.
This film started life as a fifteen-minute short film of the same name, written and directed by Jim Cummings, who also stars, he reprises those roles in this feature-length effort, which still isn’t an epic by run-time standards, but being short means that it doesn’t have any space wasted, and has pillar from which to build of its early iteration, which is cleverly worked back into this film.
Jim Arnaud (Cummings) is a man whose life is falling apart. He’s just buried his mother, and his wife is divorcing him, sending his metal state into a nose-dive.
It’s an intriguing little film, this.
The summary I gave there is shorter than usual, but that isn’t because of my lack of understanding, it’s merely because if I said anymore I’d risk giving away a lot of the plots major points, and it really is a film that’s fascinating to merely watch unfold, as well as having interesting characters and plot developments.
Mainly, this film is a vehicle for its star/director, and Cummings delivers a towering and affecting performance, and establishes himself as a modern master of the cinematic monologue, the film is punctuated by numerous long-take, rambling monologues delivered emotionally and believably by Cummings, all that is great in the film revolves around him.
Unfortunately, that means that less time is afforded to fleshing out any other character, thus making them seem very shallow, but for a plot that revolves mainly around Cummings’ character, this is not too much of a fault.
As far as I can tell, this is Cummings’ feature-length debut as a director (his IMDb lists a few other short films, but no features) and he shows flashes of brilliance throughout the film. The aforementioned monologues are among the highlights from a directing stand-point as well as from a performance perspective.
It’s an enormous task to direct yourself to a performance like Cummings gave, and he has my admiration for this. The story might not seem like anything new, but it’s in the execution that Thunder Road stands out, it’s independent origins are worn on its sleeve, with no big stars connected and next to no fanfare, it’s a deep cut of a film that only the most determined film fan would know about, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth talking about far from it.
It has a lot to offer that many bigger films don’t. It sounds pretentious to wax lyrical about the merits of independent film-making, but this is a great example of a film that makes the most of what it has, not a moment of it is wasted.
The script is another area where the film excels, its slick dialogue is almost Tarantino-esque in its delivery and writing, effortlessly flicking between emotional breakdown and hilarious one-line asides, all without feeling over-written, it shows the range of Cummings’ talent.
It’s also incredibly surprising in how quickly it turns from comedy to drama, such a change can derail a films narrative if not handled correctly, and Thunder Road suddenly takes a sharp left that it had been building too over its ninety minute run-time, subtly building the anxiety behind Jim, and pays off in one bittersweet, uncomfortable ending which will really stick with you.
In conclusion, a towering performance from its central character, paired with focused direction and a really sharp, frankly outstanding script makes Thunder Road one of this years most unexpected triumphs.