Nothing screams Oscar season like Denzel Washington and Viola Davis together on the big screen, going head to head in what feels like the Batman vs Superman of very impressive acting.
Their powers collide in a potent, electrifying combination in Fences, directed by Washington and written by August Wilson.
Adapted from Wilson's Pulitzer prize winning play, Fences is set within a black community in 1950s Pittsburgh. 54 year-old Troy Maxson (Washington) works the garbage trucks by day, and returns every night to his wife Rose (Davis) and teenage son Corey (Jovan Adepo), a humble life rebuilt after Maxson was released from prison for robbery 18 years ago.
Growing up a promising athlete, but meeting a worse fate under the thumb of entrenched societal racism, Maxson waxes lyrical in monologues about opportunities lost, wrestles with death and responsibility.
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Played with bursting vigour by Washington, he's a multi-faceted tragic character whose layers begin to shed throughout the course of the film as his moral compass swings.
But though Washington may have top billing, Fences belongs to Viola Davis. Ever the steadfast apron-wearing wife, her steely, smiling veneer also begins to tarnish beneath Maxson's corrosiveness, and her film-stealing scene will leave you reeling when it all falls apart.
The supporting cast isn't lagging either; Stephen Henderson as Maxson's jolly old friend Bono and Russell Hornsby as his estranged son Lyons both bring effortless charm and cheeky charisma under the most grim of circumstances.
Fences is a poignant domestic drama that takes its time and seldom cuts corners, the dialogue sprawling and spiking in a way that seems much better suited to the stage than what we are used to seeing on the snackable big screen.
Unfortunately, the film's theatrical origins can also be felt in the narrow setting of the film, seldom leaving the confines of the home or backyard. Not to undermine the potency of the characters, or the critical historical perspective seldom seen from such an intimate point of view, but the stilted, stagey nature of Fences feels often too rigid.
But if you can get used to the unusual style, it's a must-see for the backbreaking, heart-wrenching performances by two of our greatest living actors.
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis
Director: Denzel Washington
Rating: PG (Coarse language and sexual references)
Running time: 138mins
Verdict: Powerhouse performances bring the house down