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Uncut Gems [2019] Review: An Anxiety-Inducing Cinematic Opal

An intense, thrilling & steadily escalating edge-of-the-seat thriller that's palpably tense, incessantly riveting & laced with a subtle psychedelic kick, Uncut Gems is another surefire winning feature from the Safdie brothers that presents the filmmaking duo in prime form, benefits greatly from its energetic camerawork, groovy editing & swirling soundtrack, and is all the more uplifted by Adam Sandler's career-best performance. One of the best films of the year, Safdies' latest is an anxiety-inducing cinematic opal.

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Palpably tense, incessantly riveting & laced with a subtle psychedelic flavor, Uncut Gems is a groovy mix of kinetic direction, sharp writing, dynamic camerawork, swift pace & swirling soundtrack that presents the Safdie brothers in complete control of their craft, and is furthermore uplifted by an excellent showcase from Adam Sandler.

Set in New York City, the story follows a Jewish-American jeweler whose gambling addiction and high-stakes betting have led to him being neck-deep in debts. His way out of his predicament arrives in the form of an uncut opal from an Ethiopian mining company which he plans to auction off but his lookout for the next big score creates new problems for him.

Co-written & directed by Josh & Benny Safdie (best known for Good Time), Uncut Gems doesn’t concern itself with warming up and starts running from its opening moments, acquainting us with the premise details, characters involved & what’s at stake while it is on the move. Safdies execute the plot with flair, never letting us settle down and keep things tense from beginning to end.

The rapid-fire introduction of characters & everything unfolding within the first act is a bit chaotic but it also helps the story gain quick momentum which the Safdies are able to sustain until the last frame. The screenplay is as heavy on dialogues as it is on things going wrong for our protagonist, and the quick-fire succession with which it all unfolds only amplifies our interest & investment in this film.

Related to Uncut Gems – Heaven knows What [2015]: ‘Mad Love in New York City’

Adding more intensity to Uncut Gems is the slick camerawork that never for once allows our characters to rest and is always on the move, even during the quieter moments. The frenetic editing provides an impression of the world collapsing around our lead guy as things go from bad to worse for him and makes every minute of its 134 mins runtime count as each scene adds up and paves way for the next.

Uncut Gems

An additional propulsive boost to the film comes from the pulsating, synthesized score that also exhibits the tanginess of an acid trip. The real highlight, however, is Adam Sandler who renders his expertly written character with such effectiveness that one can’t help but wonder how extensive his range as an actor is. His live-wire act here is as magnetic as it is precise, and it’s inarguably his career-best performance.

On an overall scale, Uncut Gems is another surefire winning bet from the Safdies that’s arresting, engaging & thrilling from the first frame to the last, and is certainly amongst the finest films of the year. A character-driven & endlessly gripping edge-of-the-seat thriller steered by Safdies’ zestful handling of their material and uplifted by Adam Sandler’s masterful acting exhibition, Uncut Gems is no less than a cinematic gem, and comes definitely recommended.


[Watch] Uncut Gems Trailer: Safdie Brothers’ Highly Eccentric Return after ‘Good Time’

Uncut Gems Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes 

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