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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

The Independent: Review

The Independent Synopsis: A young journalist discovers a conspiracy involving a U.S. Presidential candidate that could change the election and the fate of the country.

Following a scandalous stint at another newspaper, dedicated journalist Elisha James teams up with veteran columnist Nick Booker as they pry into a controversy behind the upcoming election. The presidential bid divides voters between three candidates - an unpopular incumbent, a Super-Pac-supported Senator, and a famed Olympian running as a political outsider. Elisha's investigative deep dive uncovers shocking truths in the political thriller, The Independent.

Let's be honest; journalism isn't exactly the most dynamic occupation to capture onscreen, which often leads to many superficial inclusions to generate excitement. I can't say I've ever been shadowed by a suspicious vehicle or hassled by a seedy organization while working on a groundbreaking story. In reality, pursuing uncovered truths is more of a marathon than a sprint. The quest for a great story can require hours of menial research, hustling for sources and tireless nights at the computer screen before unearthing any significant discoveries into a succinct article.

Following in the footsteps of pragmatic journalism features like Spotlight and Good Night and Good Luck, The Independent views the career field in a refreshingly semi-faithful light. Unfortunately, this tale of two journalists exposing an election-defining conspiracy sloppily plagiarizes from its superior contemporaries.

First-time screenwriter Evan Parter certainly has his pulse on worthwhile subject matter. Crafting a narrative yarn centered on a divisive political field marred by malpractice, a conflation of exterior influences and an oppressive lack of transparency couldn't feel more timely given our chaotic national politics. Parter's material is at its richest when analyzing conditions from its workmanlike portrayal of Elisha and Nick's day-to-day efforts. The duo's search for illusive truths poses thoughtful meditations on the evolving state of media and the blurred morality behind politics.

The Independent also provides an array of compelling performances. Jodie Turner-Smith imbues proper conviction and agency into Elisha's coming-of-age journey in the industry, effectively carrying the film on her shoulders as the central protagonist. Veteran actors Brian Cox and Ann Dowd extract genuine gravitas from their robust supporting characters, while John Cena makes for a fittingly charismatic force as a political outsider who captures the national spotlight.

Certain aspects of The Independent radiate promise, but the film eventually adds up to less than the sum of its parts. The film's cardinal sin is ultimately its lack of ambition, with Parter's screenplay batting around concepts that are largely left unexplored in a grander sense. Instead, Parter creates a streamlined narrative that favors efficiency over grander sentiments. His writing preference ultimately limits the film to being a semi-engrossing yet toothless and thematically undercooked affair.

From a filmmaking standpoint, The Independent is far from a marvel. Director Amy Rice injects competence into her feature film debut, although she rarely commands the screen with actual authorship. Much of the film recycles bland stylistic choices and thoughtless framing techniques that don't generate much interest. With journalism being a more cerebral subject matter for a movie, The Independent desperately lacks that presence behind the camera that can genuinely engage viewers.

I'd label The Independent as the ultimate mixed bag. It's a proficient yet unimpressive feature that's too ill-equipped to build upon its relevant zeitgeist.

The Independent is now playing on Peacock.


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