Film Feature by: Lawrence Bennie
The summer of 2020 has proven to be a triumphant chapter in the unfolding success story of Netflix. Due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, a wave of films, originally intended for theatrical release, have consequently debuted on the world’s No1. streaming service. Indeed, millions of the cinema-going public have found alternative solace in Netflix-binging during these uncertain months of self-isolation.
Despite a mixed critical response, Will Ferrel’s latest comedy vehicle, Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga, has been a hit with viewers. David Dobkin’s feel-good comedy sees Ferrel team up with Rachel McAdams as hapless Icelandic singing duo Fire Saga who, against the odds, find themselves in the running for top spot at Eurovision. If you’re a Eurovision fan and missing your annual guilty-pleasure fix of shameless power ballads, bubblegum pop and flamboyant stage theatrics, then this should neatly fill the gap and throw in plenty of laughs for good measure.
Elsewhere, and with a different, more political vibe, Spike Lee has made his Netflix debut with Vietnam War drama Da 5 Bloods. Pulling in 27 million households since its mid-June release, Lee’s film offers a timely African-American perspective on the conflict and features a knockout performance from Delroy Lindo. As with Lee’s best films, his Vietnam piece is also richly entertaining and is surely one of Netflix’s highlights of the year so far.
Though far from a critical success in 2018, The Kissing Booth was a favourite with subscribers and The Kissing Booth 2 has already shot into the Netflix top 10 within a week of its release. With a second sequel scheduled for a 2021 release, Vince Marcello’s comedy series clearly shows Netflix confidently moving into movie sequel territory, something also evident with the success of hit Chris Hemsworth actioner Extraction. Sam Hargrave’s feature debut already has a sequel greenlit and has helped tick the box for those audiences craving an action blockbuster for the summer. Another action hit has been Gina-Prince Bythewood’s The Old Guard staring Charlize Theron, which has met with acclaim from both subscribers and critics. More star-studded action fare has also smashed onto Netflix screens with Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock and Peter Berg’s Spenser Confidential with Mark Wahlberg.
A different kettle of fish has come along in the form of Polish erotic drama 365 Days. Following a theatrical release in Poland, Barbara Białowąs and Tomasz Mandes’ film soon evolved into Netflix’s surprise hit of the summer, dominating June and July and gaining global attention. The chart-topping success of 365 Days shows that films can survive an initial lukewarm box-office, and critical mauling, to find a huge new audience on Netflix.
With top 10 comedies, smash-hit action, acclaimed Vietnam drama and their own rival to the Fifty Shades franchise, it seems as Netflix can do little wrong at the moment. Netflix have continued to distribute their own in-house productions at a time when major studio productions have stalled and, as UK cinemas tentatively begin their phased reopening, the company are clearly riding high through one of most turbulent times in the film industry. Be afraid, Hollywood.