Sound of Metal review: Riz Ahmed leads ‘painful but life-affirming character study’

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Riz Ahmed keeps on hitting it out of the park.

The British-Pakistani actor has been quietly building impressive film and television credits to his name but last year saw him wow in his turn as a rapper struggling with a devastating health diagnosis and clashing cultural identities in Mogul Mowgli.

Now Ahmed takes on the part of another artist struggling with a drastically new health situation.

Drummer Ruben Stone (Ahmed) is one half of heavy metal duo Blackgammon with his singer-girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke).

With all of his passions wrapped up in the musical act, he faces a life-changing discovery when he learns he is losing his hearing and it will get rapidly worse without treatment and avoiding loud noises.

Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal
(Image: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video)

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Despite health warnings, Ruben continues to play until Lou discovers his situation and seeks to push him to get help, as she fears his deafness could push him back into his addiction issues.

As Ruben seeks to find a health fix for his issues, can he truly adjust to his new circumstances?

Paul Raci and Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal
(Image: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video)

Paul Raci in Sound of Metal
(Image: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video)

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Having previously directed documentary film Loot and written the screenplay to Derek Cianfrance’s masterful The Place Beyond the Pines, director Darius Marder has made an impressively immersive dramatic feature debut with Sound of Metal – which truly attempts to place the audience in the shoes of Ruben’s journey.

Utilising strong editing from Mikkel E.G. Nielsen and perfectly judged sound design, the film emulates the sense-driven journey of Ruben which is perfectly encapsulated by Ahmed, who is brittle, charismatic, nuanced, and displays utter conviction as the struggling musician.

Ahmed delivers the tortured anger and devastation that Ruben feels but also his increasing sense of defiance. The lead actor is also ably supported by a roster of touching performers.

Olivia Cooke in Sound of Metal
(Image: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video)

Lauren Ridloff in Sound of Metal
(Image: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video)

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Olivia Cooke offers conflict and quiet concern as Lou, while Paul Raci brings outstanding gravitas as Joe, the head of a retreat for deaf addicts, who offers a new beginning for Ruben and becomes something akin to a spiritual counsel to the troubled musician.

Deaf actress Lauren Ridloff also brings a soulful performance as a teacher who helps Ruben learn American sign language (ASL) and offers patience and understanding to his pain.

Building to some uncomfortable truths and ambiguous milestones, Sound of Metal does not offer easy answers but instead just honest truth.

Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal
(Image: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video)

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Ultimately, Darius Marder has offered a true technical achievement with the empathetic Sound of Metal and Riz Ahmed offers an achingly powerful lead performance.

Verdict

Sound of Metal is a painful but life-affirming character study from director Darius Marder that once again showcases the supreme talents of lead actor Riz Ahmed.

Sound of Metal is released on Amazon Prime Video on April 12, 2021.

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