Steven Soderbergh (Oceans Eleven) has had an amazing career as a director and has delivered some of the most significant films of the past three decades. From Sex, Lies and Videotapes to his Academy Award winner of Erin Brockovich, he has proven to have skills and the pliability to change within an industry that has changed extensively over the years. One of the hallmarks of Soderbergh’s directorial style is his ability to bring together an array of on-screen talent. From George Clooney to Julia Roberts to Channing Tatum, he has been able to draw some of the best performances out of this star-studded talent pool which has benefited film history. When he announced his retirement in 2015, many asked why he would quit at the height of his career and how long this premature retirement would last? There is still much to be said about the first question, but the second was answered with the announcement that he would be releasing the latest heist comedy, Logan Lucky.
Far from the penthouses of New York and loft apartments of London, the film opens in the hills of West Virginia. The Logan family has had extreme ups and downs throughout their years in the Appalachians, which many within their community consider to be a family curse. Jimmy (Channing Tatum) is out to prove this blight on the family name as false, even though he has recently been let go from his construction job. Partnering with his siblings, Mellie (Riley Keough) and Clyde (Adam Driver), he puts together a plan to steal millions of dollars from the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the much lauded NASCAR race, the Coca-Cola 600. With the assistance of a well-known felon, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and his dimwitted brothers, the two hillbilly families work to steal the funds from the lucrative sporting facility. In their attempt to disprove the familial curse and breaking Joe out of prison to do the job, the question remains of what could possibly go wrong?
For fans of Soderbergh’s other heist films like the Oceans Eleven series and Out of Sight, the director chose to come back in a genre that is like visiting an old friend. Logan Lucky has all of the markers of his past brilliance, but with a fresh lot of characters and twists that will give audiences the satisfaction and familiarity they have come to enjoy throughout his career.
To portray the events in West Virginia, but for the plot to be interpreted as sophisticated shows the abilities of the director and cast.
Looking at the list of acting talent may cause some concern if it was put into the hands of other directors, but what differentiates this film from other ensemble casts is that each part has a defined purpose. From Seth McFarlane (Ted) to Dwight Yoakum and Hillary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), regardless of the amount of screen time given to each character, they all show the value added to the final story. This is true of the lead actors, also. Tatum, Craig, Driver and Keough all provided the right combination of comedy and drama to make this caper film come to life. The highlights are found in the over the top antics of Daniel Craig as the incarcerated thief and Adam Driver as the put upon Logan. The former is given a character that shows the depth of his talent, which reaches beyond his James Bond persona. While Driver continues to show the value of his understated demeanor and how it adds to the story.
Even though the story is reminiscent of the previous works of this revered director and some of the twists border on being predictable, it is an enjoyable and humorous joy ride through West Virginia and North Carolina. With Soderbergh’s return after a short retirement, this is a welcomed inclusion into his cinematic canon and it makes a trip to the local theatre worthwhile.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Does the end justify the means? The age old question of doing the right thing, but getting there by questionable methods. In recent films like John Wick: Chapter 2, Baby Driver and Logan Lucky, the lead character comes to a moral crossroads and must determine if questionable methods are worth considering to achieve the preferred result.
The question of justification is a philosophical question that has continually plagued mankind, one that extends well beyond the few words found at the end of a film review. Yet, it is worth starting the conversation by saying the answer comes in the form of another question: ‘Who’ determines your moral position?
If the answer is based in mere personal or societal standards, the rationale behind questionable methods could be easier to explain. These definitions can be rather fluid and could provide short-term peace of mind for an individual, but this answer never fully satisfies the question. For someone who considers themselves to be a follower of Jesus, what could be said is that the standard is set by someone else. This makes things somewhat easier, but also difficult at the same time. In this scenario, if the means of achieving a goal puts that person in the place of going against God’s standard, then there is no justification.
It is a discussion that may seem pretty deep for a comedy/heist film review, but it is one worth contemplating. A good place to start could be by looking into the very words of this person, Jesus. The book of Mark is a great place to start.