Set in a parallel-universe version of Los Angeles, where humans live in ‘tactful harmony’ with Orcs, Elves and Fairies, Bright hinges on the relationship between two reluctantly paired police officers: battle-scarred beat cop Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and his idealistic new partner, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the first Orc ever allowed on the force. In this social structure, at the bottom are the Orcs, who dress like inner-city thugs, costumed in sports jerseys and gang colors up to their Shrek-like heads, which feature unique pigmentation as they are tagged ‘blooded’ on their Orc-deeds. Then come the humans who seem to live in a kind of post-racial, post-gender-segregated equilibrium. And above that hover the Elves, the elite class who hoard the wealth and spend their days running the world and shopping.
The complicated social structure is in no place forced down your brain but becomes visible on its own through character interactions, the division of districts, body language around different species and even through the graffiti and posters on the walls. Everybody in this world is intimidating in their own hierarchical way.
It’s astonishing how the makers of the film have picked up a relevant topic of inclusion and weaved it around a fantasy, thus subtly, the film says a lot about diversity, crimes against a certain group based on their ethnicity, color, and religion, all of this in a politically charged environment , deserves a standing ovation. Bright is a brilliant twist on an old dynamic that simultaneously supports an allegory about today’s relevant discrimination that can actually be used as a detailed analytical dissertation on various socio-political topics.
The film is an ambitious, well-executed Netflix production that benefits from the way director David Ayer’s gritty, streetwise sensibility balance out an elaborate comic-book mythology, without letting go the ground of magic, miracle, and prophecy.
Will Smith is in bang-on form, the cop we missed since his Bad Boys days. There are moments you’d be reminded of his previous outings as a witty, foul-mouthed cop, only this time the street cop is more matured and evolved and in all good ways, it shows. Edgerton as Jakoby presents the sensitivity of an un-blooded Orc with sincerity; discarded from his community and disrespected in the one he is currently living in, the way he tries to fit in the uniform and win the trust of his partner, makes you feel for him.
It’s a complicated social system to establish, and yet, Bright does it without relying on traditional exposition. However, the film does have its flaws, in order to get rid of all stereotypes, the director creates certain new ones. The Latinos are still the drug dealers, the family scenes of Ward aren’t convincing enough and there is a certain continuity problem with his ‘family-man’ aspect. Still, the film manages to hold on to your attention and present the mythical tale of Orcs, Elves, and fairies in a gun-down, street-smart way.
This one deserves a watch for the way it subtly deals with the concept of identity and inclusion, and for the chemistry between Smith’s Ward and Edgerton’s Jakoby. A bad-ass way to end the year, indeed.