It isn’t often in modern Hollywood that filmmakers combine multiple genres. Some projects are considered a style of writing, but it’s a tricky task to mix world-building, character building, and storytelling all in one piece. That is the goal of Netflix’s original movie, Bright. At first glance, this film is a buddy cop movie, pitting veteran Daryl Ward (Men in Black‘s Will Smith) with his rookie partner, Nick Jakoby (The Gift‘s Joel Edgerton). The twist from traditional buddy cop movies is that Jakoby is an ork.
Set in a well-crafted world that includes elves, orks, and yes, magic, Bright explores themes of social challenges, racism, and poverty. Writer Max Landis (American Ultra) creates a Los Angeles where the have and have nots still hate one another, and interactions between gangsters and the police are incredibly tense. The role of magic is slowly revealed while the characters struggle for partnership, acceptance, and survival.
The cast is brilliant, with director David Ayer (Fury) being able to let Smith ad lib and cut loose, the way he couldn’t in Suicide Squad. Edgerton’s Jakoby is just trying to feel accepted. He’s trapped between a race that doesn’t approve of him and a partner whose racism constantly keeps him at a distance. Noomi Rapace (Prometheus) is a delightfully psychotic villain. Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) is a great human supremacist, aka alpha male douchebag.
Bright is very well served by the combination of score and soundtrack. Hans Zimmer (Gladiator) uses beautiful orchestration to build up the fantasy of the various races, while the hip hop music provides the feel of Los Angeles. The film opens with “Broken People” by Logic and Rag n Bone Man. It then continues to walk the line between urban grit and otherworldly power throughout.
The best aspects of Landis’ characters is how self-aware they are of their surroundings. Smith’s sarcasm shines with lines like “[w]e are not in a Prophecy. We are in a stolen Toyota Corolla.” The social themes are explored from new angles, including “faerie lives matter” and the more subtle “curse the Police.”
Bright is a thoughtful, well-paced and brilliantly orchestrated a futuristic take on a buddy cop movie that expands into new worlds. Viewers will be left wanting more from this cast, this story, and the endless possibilities it explores.