REVIEW: ‘Sound of Metal’ is a success thanks to lead performance

The tragedies of losing what you love and giving up what you love are tied together in this film, and it makes for a fairly strong drama.

Riz Ahmed stars as Ruben in the film,  a drummer in a heavy-metal duo, with the other member being his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). The two have had troubled pasts, including issues with substance abuse, but at the outset of the movie, the two are clean, working gigs and are comfortable with how things are going.

Trouble hits Ruben’s life, though, as he begins noticing issues with his hearing. During a trip to a medical center, Ruben learns his hearing is dropping rapidly, and will likely be lost quickly. To deal with his plight, Ruben is sent an organization for recovering, deaf drug addicts and begins adjusting. At the same time, he is considering a surgery that could restore his hearing.

“Sound of Metal” is a harrowing character study of a person facing a frightening, uncertain future. The dramatic situation Ruben goes through in this movie is not only compelling, but insightful in how a person would react when confronted with a disability, especially when it’s a roadblock to the individual’s way of life.

While the character Ruben is quite interesting, though, the way the story plays out in “Sound of Metal” has some problems. The movie starts off quite well, but the picture loses some steam as it gets to the second half.

The second act feels a bit too conventional and it also fails to introduce more of the supporting characters. The third act, meanwhile, is a disappointment as well. What’s explored in the final section seems somewhat out of place, and there’s a sense that narrative direction was missing.

Courtesy Amazon Studios.

Another issue with the movie is its message it seems to be trying to get across. The movie portrays Ruben’s desire for treatment to help his hearing in a sort of black and white way, to the point where his want for medical attention is almost looked down on. There’s a grey area that’s missing from the concept that’s explored here.

The picture’s main conflict is Ruben either coming to terms with being deaf and joining the deaf community, or seeking the surgery. In focusing on this, the movie kind of overlooks an even bigger issue, which is the cost of Ruben’s medical treatment and the financial uncertainty one can face in this situation.

Despite its flaws, the main character himself remains consistently strong. This is very much thanks to Ahmed’s award caliber performance. The depth in Ahmed’s work is astounding, as he is incredibly convincing.

Ruben’s fear of the unknown future, attempts to cope with the situation and challenges with adjusting to hearing loss is brought to life quite believably by Ahmed.

While Joe, the director of the organization Ruben goes to, is somewhat one dimensional, Paul Raci who plays the part does fine work. The same can be said for Cooke, despite her character being sidelined for a while.

Along with Ahmed’s performance, another major highlight in “Metal” is the superb sound design. There are times where we are able to hear exactly what Ruben is hearing, and not hearing. During others, viewers can hear everything perfectly. As a result, a full sense of what Ruben is going through can be felt.

“Sound of Metal” has a main character that is really interesting and phenomenally well acted. What he goes through is fantastically brought to life with the sound work. However, the film’s story hits some issues that prevent it from being better. 3.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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