(Ryan Coogler, USA, 2015)
A gloriously inventive re-interpretation of the Rocky story, both a loving tribute and a daring break in new directions. Coogler makes no attempt to hide his exaltation of the original film, but does justice to his own imaginative impulses. It's a tender work and an exhilarating one, with an astonishing breadth of experience and maturity. We feel Rocky's broken down and faded glory, his exhaustion and regret, and his increasing proximity to mortality. Stallone, an excellent actor who has often been underserved by the industry and his own choices, has rarely been better. We also feel the exuberance and the anger of young Adonis Creed, played with incandescent energy and wit by Michael B. Jordan, as he struggles against the burden of legacy and the precariousness of ambition.
The film gets off to a tentative start, with some slightly clunky gestures, but it quickly finds its footing and momentum. By the time we've reached the end, we've seen the delights of Coogler's mercurial imagination, both as a storyteller and as a creator of images. Rarely have the pitfalls of franchise-making and the familiar territory of personal triumph been so brilliantly and refreshingly navigated.