8 Mile is a hip-hop drama, which was originally released in 2002, and was directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A Confidential). The screenplay was written by Scott Silver, and has a running time of 110 minutes. The movie has a cast of Eminem, Kim Basinger, Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer, Taryn Manning. This is Number Eight in the ‘500 Films A Year Challenge’.
I might as well start with admitting that I am an Eminem fan. I love his music, I have gladly rapped along to them several times in the past, and he’s in my Top 8 Last.FM artists. I also have seen this movie previously, when I was much younger, probably a year or two after it came out, so I’d 2004, at the age of fourteen. I haven’t seen it since then, a length of time that includes the passing away of Brittany Murphy, Mekhi Phifer becoming a member of Torchwood, and Eminem retiring and returning to rap. Due to this, I decided to watch it again, settling down to view it on the 5th January.
Many musical artists have attempted to enter the world of film. Madonna has appeared in several roles over the last few decades, Michael Jackson attempted for several years to create his own movies, and Justin Timberlake in the last decade has appeared in critically acclaimed The Social Network. Eminem would have seem one of the least likely to have attempted such an option, his anti-establishment and controversial lyrical genius seemingly terrifying for any movie company to get behind. But through the rawness of his lyrics, coupled with an unrelenting anger, made him an endearing genius for audiences. What surprised all audiences and critics with this movie, was the sombreness of the story. Eminem challenged himself with a story true to his heart, the ridiculed white boy, desperate to prove himsef in the world of rap and hip-hop. The underdog mentality of the movie gives the audience an outlet to buy into, the desperation of an everyday nobody wanting to prove himself. However, this develops into the growth of Jimmy (Eminem) into an adult, a surprising turn of character.
Eminem always had a natural charisma that demonstrates through either his comedy or his anger, here, he gets the chance to show both, his icy intensity in the earlier scenes include dramatic scenes laced with mild comedy opposite Kim Basinger, a former Award-winning actress, and I actually felt that Eminem acquitted himself better than Basinger. However, the emotionally dramatic scenes between the two enforces the rawness of Eminem’s music lyrics, the difficult relationship between himself and his mother. As the main protagonist, Eminem displays a focus of intent, dedicating a refusal to allow himself to be ridiculed, akin to his rap career. Eminen was expected to fail, and instead, he blew his critics away with a layered, nuanced, emotional turn. The supporting cast is an impressive collection of range, major supporting cast including Brttany Murphy, in probably the finest role of her short-lived career, Mekhi Phifer, his laid-back best friend who believes in Jimmy, and smaller cast members including Michael Shannon, Xzibit, and Anthony Mackie. Curtis Hanson as director brings the best out of the actors, his direction stepping back and allowing the actors to flourish in a naturalistic element.
With the movie and story building on the hip-hop/rap world, it is vital that the music is up to a respectable level. Thankfully, the early scenes, which have a few good lines but mainly, exist to get you into the mindfram and understanding of the characters. This leads to a musical climax that frankly, is amazing, and bumps the entire movie up an extra level. After eighty minutes of seeing Eminem being dragged through the mire, he rises to the occasion, the rap battle draws in every plotline, every hit, every character, and turns it into a weapon against the opposition. Comedic lines, lines of anger, intensity, all articulated, in a scene equal to a war scene, the final battle, every line a cut, a punch, a shot. The beauty of the climax makes me love the movie.
I am a fan of Eminem, his music and ability, and I was blown away when younger, watching him for the first time. The music is a passion for the characters, and becomes a passion of the movie. Looking at the movie, I’m still amazed at the layers Eminem draws into the movie, to the point I legitimately wish he would return to movies. Roger Ebert even mentioned wishing there would be a sequel based on where Eminem made it, and I have to agree.
Thunbs Up, 8 out of 10.
Next time, we burrow deep into the world of Tim Burton, in a meeting with a Ghost Exorcist.