The reality of what the filmmakers are discussing is not lost on the viewer, despite the occasionally over-the-top moments. In the beginning, the levity worked well, but as the events get more dire for the well-written characters, those same elements begin to feel forced. A nosy neighbor who sets off the final standoff in the apartment is especially grating, as she never seems to gel with the harsh, sadly too close-to-reality-for-comfort premise. Her constant discussion of her daughter wanting to rent the apartment there is less fun, ongoing gag, and more irksome than probably intended. But, the big ideas, the scary possibilities therein, and the horrific outcomes of dealing with everyday racists, much less government-sanctioned terror, are approached with honesty, and the ending works beautifully.
The cast helps smooth some of those tonal issues over, as everyone, even the lady portraying said nosy neighbor, is absolutely fantastic. Enoch, probably best known for his role in the Harry Potter franchise, is excellent as the barrister who believes that humanity can and ultimately is better than what he’s seeing all around him. André’s explosive temperament, designed to push the buttons of the subjects he’s covering, is brought to intense life by an electric Jorge. Araújo is the epitome of class, and a desperate plea for others to calm down proves to be quite emotionally vulnerable.
“…the entire film looks gorgeous and is paced brilliantly.”
And to circle back to the question at the very start: does Executive Order comes across as a movie or as a filmed stage play? Happily, Ramos directs with flair as the entire film looks gorgeous and is paced brilliantly. The editing is clever, occasionally matching scene transitions from one character to another, mirroring where their respective stories are with each other. It is quite striking. The introduction of the Afro-bunker is a high mark, as the lighting and color, and camera movement all lead to an epic reveal. The action sequences are exciting and gripping, as the audience feels for all the characters and does not want them to be expelled against their wishes.
Executive Order does not entirely meld its serious-minded concept to the occasional levity that sneaks in. But that is a minor problem overall, as the directing is excellent, the cast is giving it their all, and the themes are relevant and need to be discussed.
Executive Order screened at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
"…the horrific outcomes of dealing with everyday racists, much less government-sanctioned terror, are approached with honesty..."