— by CAM SMITH —
I can’t for the life of me fathom why Chiwetel Ejiofor isn’t a major Hollywood player by now.
The man’s delivered gripping work for A-class directors such as Spike Lee, David Mamet, Stephen Frears, Woody Allen and Alfonso Cuaron, and earned blockbuster cred playing seriously brutal bad-asses in “Serenity” and “Four Brothers.”
So seeing him butt heads with William Hurt in the trailer for the political thriller “Endgame” tickles me to no end, and inspires optimism for an Ejiofor-friendly future.
Based on real-life events, the film — set in 1985 — explores South Africa’s dark days of Apartheid, wherein Mandela’s ongoing imprisonment has fuelled a plague of terrorist attacks and the government stands powerless in the face of increasingly chaotic civil unrest. Ejiofor plays Thabo Mbeki, a key South African political figure, and recognized “terrorist,” who is recruited into a covert Britain-set think-tank, along with Hurt’s philosophy professor, to help bring down the unstable regime.
On a surface level, there is much to admire about the look and feel of “Endgame,” with the combustible atmosphere of the era captured in jittery hand-held shots, and a top-notch supporting cast — including Mark Strong, Jonny Lee Miller and Derek Jacobi — adding compelling dramatic support.
However, one has to question the potential quality of any film whose promotional trailer proudly boasts the tag “From the director of ‘Vantage Point’” and then misspells one of its star’s names (Miller, for those curious). Plus, the recent track record for intense issue-driven pictures has been spotty at best, with far more seasoned helmers falling victim to public apathy and their own unintentional predilections for over-heated moralizing.
Still, there’s a modicum of hope to be found in the fact that the recent success of “District 9” has raised Apartheid’s profile within the movie-going consciousness, and that the trailer promises plenty of complex intrigue, explosive set-pieces and sharp-edged intellectual discourse.
And who knows, maybe this will finally be the project to grab Ejiofor some industry attention. Fingers crossed.
Directed by Pete Travis, and written by Paula Milne, the PG-13-rated “Endgame” has a scheduled New York release date for Nov. 6, with limited engagements in major cities likely to follow.
Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.