The Banker, based on a true story, is directed by George Nolfi. It tells a lesser-known tale of two black businessmen, who became the first African-American citizens to own a bank in the United States.
As the first Apple original film, The Banker can be described as quality entertainment.
It marries cinematic bliss with educative learning. Though not always factually correct, it is an exceptionally well-made film that solidifies the presence of OTT content.
The dialogues are sharp, and the less boasted narrative keeps everything believable.
While the film appeals to black Americans, it is easy to relate with the characters, particularly, the protagonist, Bernard Garrett.
Portrayed by Anthony Mackie, the film sketches the journey of Bernard from being a shoe-shining boy to a real-estate mogul.
While it is an inspirational tale, the storytelling is straightforward and largely conventional.
The first 30-minutes run at a pace so brisk that the bulk of Bernard’s journey gets done with. We unfold various events starting from his ambitious childhood times to becoming a half-decent real-estate businessman.
It is after the 30-minutes mark that things get cinematically exciting.
Matt Steiner (played fantastically by Nicholas Hoult) becomes the center of the attraction as he agrees to help Bernard and Joe Morris (an elated Samuel L. Jackson) to run their operations from the dark while he becomes the face value of their partnership.
As the naive White guy, Hoult is pitch-perfect. His arc is the meatiest in the film as his character goes through multiple transformations. He plays his part with a great degree of enthusiasm that is equivalent to a newcomer.
This entire segment of the film leading up to the half-way mark plays out like a caper. Seeing Matt pull off a great deal for Bernard and Joe, pretending to be something he is not, is equally giddy and amusing.
In terms of pure entertainment value, this is where The Banker offers its most delightful bits. However, what follows after are contrastingly tense moments of thoughtful conversations.
The pace slows down for the decisive events to strike in – depicting what went wrong to Joe & Bernard’s conning, making the second half feel more balanced.
The film is shot beautifully. The camera envelops the magnificent architecture of the buildings and the sidewalks, underlining the racial discrimination of that period in the neighborhoods of Texas and California.
I counted two scenes where Bernard leisurely walked in his neighborhood to acknowledge how much his surroundings have evolved. Those moments were some of the best in the film, as they exhibited the pre-civil rights America.
Cast in a surprisingly unusual role, Mackie is excellent as Bernard. His passive aggression in the film is to the point.
Through mere stares and nods, he manages to say a lot about his character. It is a delight not to see him goofing around.
The goofiness, instead, is saved for Samuel L. Jackson. As a seasoned black entrepreneur, he seemed to be thoroughly relishing his role. His entire training montage with Hoult produces good laughs.
Nia Long is also excellent as Bernard’s wife. Her character gets a bunch of intense moments to shine in, and she does a great job.
Produced on a budget of $11 million, The Banker matches top-tier production values. It manages to provide a rare blend of entertainment and learning while serving a showreel for Mackie, Hoult, and Jackson.
For a subscription price of a mere $5 (Rs. 99) a month, Apple TV Plus is offering premium content that is not limited to cheap thrillers or irrelevant sexual content.
The Banker marks a promising start of what is hopefully, an array of intellectual TV-cinema that justifies the sudden wave of OTT platforms. Watch it in pristine 4K clarity. It is, at best, a thoroughly rewarding investment of your time.
Rating: 3 / 5
Watch the trailer of The Banker:
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