Ryan Coogler’s highly enjoyable Creed touches viewers in all the right spots at all the right times. Coogler (Fruitvale Station) accomplishes something else with Creed – pays respect to the original in ways few films – that attempt similarly – accomplish. Forty years-ago the film Rocky caught The United States of America by storm. Delivered during the bi-centennial (1976) Rocky was so perfectly timed and appropriately delivered that even the most logical and reasoned cynics and critics (me included) could not undo its popularity.
The fact that Creed will win over Rocky fans is a nice compliment. However, the film and story stand on their own. Creed stars, Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Fruitvale Station) and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, Cliffhanger, Judge Dredd). The on-screen chemistry between the two is undeniable and magnetic. Stallone’s performance in Creed should remind all of us that given the right vehicle, he is a joy to watch on the screen. The fact that you can understand Rocky’s every word is a pleasant bonus. Tessa Thompson as Creed’s love interest Bianca works very well – but to a lesser degree.
Coogler’s strong direction is amplified by cinematographer Maryese Alberti’s (The Wrestler) ability to frame each scene – letting them develop on what feels is their own time and schedule. No scene in Creed feels rushed, obligatory or throwaway – and this is a crucial aspect given the film’s 2 hour and 13 minute (133) run-time. Alberti is arguably the best documentary cinematographer in the film industry (Love Marylyn, West Memphis) and Creed benefits from that skill set. Creed feels real.
Another big factor in Creed’s success is the score and musical soundtrack. Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson (We’re the Miller’s) score is powerful. Goransson collaborated with Thompson (also a member of the band Caught a Ghost) to create nine original songs for the film. What is nice about all of them is that they compliment Creed.