Tribeca Review: A Fine “Legacy”

The ability to craft a well made psychological thriller is indeed rare. The ability to do it with the story taking place in a single room shows some formidable filmmaking chops. That is just what writer-director Thomas Ikimi has demonstrated with his second feature length film, “Legacy.”

Idris Elba (“The Wire”, “Obsessed”) portrays Malcolm Gray, a decorated soldier who was part of a anti-terrorist black-ops team. While trying to hunt down an elusive biological weapons dealer, his unit was captured and he was singled out for vicious torture.

Ten months later Malcolm's brother Darnell is enjoying a meteoric rise as the U.S. senator beiund a special task force that has successfully intercepted biological WMDs in the nation’s capital, positioning him for a run at the White House.

Malcolm watches the political theatre unfold on TV from his dilapidated Brooklyn hotel room, the effects of the grueling torture he endured causing grave anxiety and paranoia. He becomes convinced his unit was set up and that somehow it's all connected to his brother’s surging political power. But how much of this conspiracy is the product of his rapidly decaying mental health, or is his own brother really at the head of some nefarious cabal?

It was a bold move to set the film almost entirely in Malcolm’s hotel room, but director Ikimi has several elements that help him, for the most part, pull it off. At the top of that list is a very solid cast including fine performances from Eamonn Walker (“Oz”) as Senator Darnell Gray and Clarke Peters (another “Wire” alum) as Malcolm’s commanding officer.

Anchoring the film is the excellent portrayal of Malcolm Gray by Idris Elba. As a character whose very sanity is deteriorating before the viewer, Elba is able to adroitly capture the emotional volubility, paranoia and desperation of his character. Playing it over the top would be an easy trap to fall into, but Elba only dances near that territory and almost always reins it in.

It’s an ambitious film Ikimi has created and the script, while not flawless, is smart, with solid foundations in the psychological and political thriller genres. Ikimi has some nice techniques up his sleeve, as he cleverly uses the confined space of the hotel room to reflect the walls of insanity close in on Malcolm. He shoots the film using a variety of effective tactics, such as interspersing Malcolm’s use of a video diary, that propel the narrative forward while keeping it visually fresh.

Made on a shoestring budget, “Legacy” transcends its financial limitations. It’s always a rewarding experience to see what some smart, creative filmmaking, fine acting and a taut, solid script can accomplish compared to the countless Hollywood failures that cost a hundred times the money.

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