If you look at the history of well made biopics, the films that are most memorable are the ones that feel most like a documentary. For a motion picture to feel that real, the film has to have three elements 1) The characters on screen have to visually resemble the individuals they portray with historical accuracy 2) The film has to move you emotionally by its acting, so much so that you forget that you are watching acting. 3) The film has to make you excited to want to see it again. Straight Outta Compton directed by F. Gary Gray has all three of these distinct elements.
The actors chosen to play the rappers of N.W.A. truly resemble their youthful versions. A young Dr. Dre is steadfastly played by Corey Hawkins. For the role of Ice Cube, the actor chosen to portray him is none another than Cube’s son, the rising talent, O’Shea Jackson, Jr. The actor who plays Eazy-E has an uncanny resemblance to the late rapper, as well. He is portrayed to a T from the jheri curls to the high pitched voiced, by Jason Mitchell. Mitchell’s performance gives the film an emotional gravitas from beginning to end. Rounding out the group are solid contributors Aldis Hodge, who plays MC Ren and Neil Brown, Jr as DJ Yella. The actors cast for the roles of Suge Knight and Tupac also could be their 90‘s doppel-GANGers. (Pun intended).
It is not merely the striking resemblances of the actors that makes Straight Outta Compton a success. The acting is superb, as well. Many scenes keep the audience emotionally engaged and empathetic to the characters. When Eazy-E is told he has AIDS by his physician, the reaction on screen by Mitchell is award worthy and will shed tears. When Dr. Dre’s younger brother is tragically killed the collective grief of the group resonates with the viewer. Adding support to Gray’s film, which grossed over $200 Million on a budget of $28 Million, is the acting of the talented Paul Giammati. The Oscar nominee portrays N.W.A’s manager, Jerry Heller. The cascading arc that was Heller’s relationship with the group is meticulously displayed. From signing the band in their fledgling stages to their severed ties years later.
The story of N.W.A. which promoted itself as the “World’s Most Dangerous Group” is an important one is in the fabric of race relations in America. As their popularity grew so did their mass appeal. Their music was not confined to the borders of South Central Los Angeles. Their CD’s were not just purchased by ethnic minorities in urban neighborhoods. Their music had a global impact. N.W.A’s concerts were attended by suburban whites and inner city minorities alike.
This film is thoughtfully made through and through. From the opening scene to the closing credits, the viewer is locked in consistently. Straight Outta Compton meticulously delivers the story of N.W.A. Their music was about rebellion. It was about survival. Messages that resonate to a mass audience. Another message that resonates to a mass audience is that Straight Outta Compton is a “Must See”.