Green Book (2018)

Green Book (2018)

The early 1960s were a period of societal change in the US. Following John F. Kennedy's election in 1961, the blocks imposed by segregation would slowly begin to fall away, pushed along by Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech in 1963.

Green Book is set right in the middle of all this change and tells the story of Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his concert tour through the Midwest and Deep South of America. He hires bouncer Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a brash Italian American with own in-built prejudices, to act as his driver, bodyguard and personal assistant.

It is fitting that Green Book takes place primarily as a car journey as it takes you along for the ride. As the trip into the South descends further into the racism rabbit hole, the scenes become more and more harrowing. However, despite this, Green Book provides genuine laugh-out-loud moments and - I found at least - a true tear jerker ending.

It would be easy to celebrate Mahershala Ali's performance as Don Shirley as he struggles to maintain his composure against the increasing tide of racism, and he does provide some of the biggest jerks of emotion in the film. However, Viggo Mortensen is the real hook of the film. Tony Lip begins as a man who is, often unconsciously, institutionally racist and in some ways the villain of the film, and Mortensen never tries to hide this. Instead, he plays on Lip's redeeming features as a loyal family man so that we go from laughing at his racist ignorance to adoring his redemption arc.

In truth, the film's story is fairly predictable but it doesn't matter because it's packaged and acted impeccably, turning what could be a preaching film about racism into a story about friendship.

5 stars