- Director Steven Soderbergh’s back – and he’s on fine form, directing with style
- Sharp, witty and very funny script from mysterious screenwriter Rebecca Blunt with an intriguing, well-paced story
- Some characters are missed opportunities, not being as fleshed out as they could be – but still are welcome additions to the excellent cast
- Slightly wobbly pacing and structure towards the end, but only a minor hindrance as the final act of the film takes a gear change
- Fantastic performances from an excellent cast who deliver stellar performances – all on top of their game
As the old adage goes, you should never say never – especially if you’re a talented and well-respected filmmaker like Steven Soderbergh. Not that we really believed his retirement was for good (or perhaps that’s just what we hoped). So we should be doubly happy; firstly because he’s back in the director’s chair (this being his first movie since 2013); and secondly because his comeback film Logan Lucky is excellent, one which makes us happy that he’s back to doing what he does best. In a similar vein to his Ocean’s films, but with more style, humour and personality, Logan Lucky is an excellent return for Soderbergh, bringing a mesmerising story, intriguing characters and genuine laughs.
Laid off from his job and in much need of cash to help support his daughter, we follow Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) as he decides to pull off a heist, robbing a stadium during a NASCAR race. Recruiting his one-armed – or one-handed – brother Clyde (Adam Driver), manic convict and explosion-enthusiast Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and his two brothers Fish and Sam (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson respectively) we seem them plan and pull off an ingenious heist. In a similar manner to Soderbergh’s previous heist movies like Ocean’s, there’s an abundance of clever stuff going on to amuse and impress you from start to finish, with twists and turns aplenty.
The story’s good, intriguing and, at least on the surface, nice and simple. Yet Soderbergh and mysterious first-time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt keep it interesting and layered by giving us lots of enjoyable detail that make the plan seem all the more intricate and fun to watch. While it could be fun to have seen this play out like the Mission: Impossible films, where you hear the plan step-by-step and then watch everything go according to plan, what Soderbergh achieves is much more effective. Since we don’t know exactly what the next stage of the plan is, not only does this raise tension levels, but more than this it seems ingenious and even more impressive when you see it unfold organically, managing to surprise you and keep you invested in the story more than you would be otherwise. Although it may test credulity in how conveniently well the plan goes (more so than the Joker’s unlikely convenient plan in The Dark Knight), it’s a joy to watch.
As captivating as the story is and as entertaining as it may be to watch everything go according to Jimmy’s master plan, the structure and pace occasionally seems to struggle to keep up. Whilst for the most part it all goes perfectly and seamlessly; however in the latter half an hour or so, the gear changes dramatically – no longer is it a heist movie, the quasi-epilogue becoming more an investigation. Fortunately the clever twists come and it leaves us on a wonderfully ambiguous cliffhanger, however the last little part doesn’t flow quite as easily as the rest of the film that precedes it. This doesn’t detract from the movie as a whole though, and is really the only flaw of the film. Other than this, there does seem to be a few sadly missed opportunities, notably with Katherine Waterston’s briefly appearing (but potentially interesting) nurse, Hilary Swank’s tenacious FBI detective (who certainly deserved more screen-time) and Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane’s amusing, but bizarrely pointless, Max Chilblain (good luck spotting this one, it took me a while to recognise him!).
Ultimately though the slightly wobbly pace and structure in the latter part of the film and the occasional missed opportunity with some characters are only minor flaws in a bigger picture. This is a film that isn’t as focused on the plot as it is the characters. Frequent dialogues aren’t necessarily intrinsic and necessary for plot development, but are purely for the brilliant character development – it’s this emphasis that makes Logan Lucky the joy it is and more than just another clever heist film. We go on this journey to spend time with the characters; and when they’re this well-directed, well-written and well-performed with brilliant pace it’s an absolute pleasure. On top of this, it’s a wonderful and eclectic cast playing parts we’re not exactly used to seeing them in. Behind the thick Southern accent, Tatum’s Jimmy has more brains than a lot of Tatum’s other characters, quite competent as the leader. Yet more surprising and impressive are Daniel Craig and Adam Driver, the former being very different to his turn as James Bond, and the latter being equally far from his new Star Wars villain, Kylo Ren. This film is a showcase for how talented these actors really are, Driver and Craig in particular battling out to be the show-stealers. Driver’s hilariously slow-speaking, but bright one-handed Clyde has great chemistry with Jimmy, while Craig’s lunatic, bleach blonde criminal brings the laughs and personality (with an incredibly flawless accent). It’s a strong cast performing a strong script excellently and it’s a delight to behold.
All in all, Logan Lucky is a terrific film and a fitting return for director Steven Soderbergh. Despite the occasional wobbly pacing and structure towards the end and the odd missed opportunity with some potentially great characters, there really is little to fault here. Quick-witted and hilarious script, directed with style by a seasoned professional returning to fine form and performed to perfection by an incredible roster of actors who are on top of their game. We truly are lucky to have a film like Logan Lucky.