Jim Cummings is Tommy Wiseau, but if Tommy Wiseau made one of the best films of the year.
Synopsis: A police officer faces a personal meltdown following a divorce and the death of his mother. (Vanishing Angle)
Starring: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, & Nican Robinson
Writer: Jim Cummings
Director: Jim Cummings
Running Time: 90mins
Thunder Road is really something special. The film at its very essence is a character study of Officer Jim Arnaud (Cummings), as he deals with the death of his loving mother, and attempts to navigate through a divorce and custody battle for his daughter. We follow Jim as he goes through the stages of a mental breakdown leading to a stirring and and heartbreaking film with an equally stirring and heartbreaking performance at its centre.
The film is listed as a comedy on iTunes, and while some scenes may very well be perceived as comedic, usually the cringe-inducing verity of humour, the movie as a whole is a beautifully told drama, and should in no way be labelled a comedy. The script Cummings has penned is thoughtful and powerful, with three monologues, one per act, being the obvious stand outs.
Thunder Road is based upon the 2016 short of the same name, which is the opening scene of this film. The short is incredible in its own right, and in this film sets the movie in motion perfectly, presenting the strange and idiosyncratic syntax of our protagonist, while also establishing the grounded and realistic tone of the narrative. The scene is like a punch to the stomach – and opening the story with such an impactful first scene is a wonderful choice by Cummings. This scene could have very well been the climax of a differently made feature, but Cummings choice to use this as a building block for a story that somehow increases the tension and tone established in the first 10 minutes allows the film to hit the ground running and never stop till it reaches the end of its 90 minute run time.
Cummings’ performance in this work is absolutely outstanding, and may be one of the best of the year. His broken, fragmented statements and way of presenting Jim’s mental breakdown are amazing to watch. Every scene feels almost improvised due to Cummings’ natural and incredibly realistic work. It’s an oscar worthy performance that unfortunately due to the size of the film will likely go unnoticed by the academy. He’ll probably get some love from the Indie Spirit awards however, for which will definitely be well deserved.
It would be wrong not to touch on Cummings’ direction, which shines here. He utilizes long takes, usually involving a slowly zooming telephoto lens – thereby allowing his actors, or for the most part, his performance, to cary the scene. While the film might be seen as lacking direction, it was rather intentionally minimalistic direction – attempting to keep all focus on the characters, not on the style of the film. When one thinks of Thunder Road, you shouldn’t remember some incredibly choreographed movement scene, or stunning wides and establishing shots. You remember the characters, the moments you spend with them, and you remember how it feels to be witnessing such a personal and realistic story. This feeling is unencumbered by a heavy handed stylistic approach, and instead is left to breathe on its own. It works very well, and allows you get further invested in the characters and story.
Overall, Thunder Road is an absolute masterclass of acting, direction and writing, which somehow was orchestrated by one man, namely Jim Cummings. What he has achieved with this film is absolutely outstanding, and we should all be on the lookout for whatever he tackles next. Thunder Road likely won’t receive much discussion this awards season, but it most certainly deserves some – it’s a masterpiece, and you should go watch it right now.
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