Showcasing some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry such as Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie, The Banker is the first of its kind for Apple TV+. What this film presents is a quality example of how two-hour feature film should be made – it is well-produced, intriguing and highly addictive to watch, and brings to light a hugely dominating issue of racism in mid-twentieth-century America.

Based on the true story of two black businessmen, Joe Morris (Jackson) and Bernard Garrett (Mackie), the plot focuses on the rise of a real-estate empire which then bites off more than it can chew. This can also be said for the film itself, as its rather lengthy build-up highlights the background story of Bernard, but takes up a large portion of the film. Whilst the plot is easy to get sucked in to, the pace of the film in the first half is a little difficult to keep up with, and it does feel as if some of the characters are introduced to the viewer in rather a rushed manner.

Nevertheless, the tangled web of characters, business deals and relationships all add to the authenticity of the story, and it is easy to forgive the production team because of how addictive it is to watch. Director George Nolfi retains the viewer’s attention by utilising a veritable array of montage scenes, cutaways and relatively unimportant character discussions – it sometimes feels as if he is trying out every trick in the film production handbook to keep it intriguing. But this is a film about banking, after all.

Not only is it a piece of thrilling entertainment, but importantly it also delves into the deep and disconcerting levels of segregation which African-Americans and other minorities experienced during this time. This isn’t to the story’s detriment, however, as it forces the viewer to invest themselves into the lives which these characters are trying to live, acting as a reminder of just how starkly different the world was only half a century ago. However, this film would have been greatly improved if it was a little more realistic. A large portion of it feels like the conventional ‘feel-good story’ following a pair of businessmen who pursue the American Dream. 

Yet where it lacks in content through being somewhat predictable, it makes up for in droves by the quality of the acting. The sheer masterful depiction of each character makes the portrayal of this story more than solely a pleasant watch. Even though the struggle of doing business and making money is sometimes glossed over, one character, Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult), certainly helps the viewer to rationalise the situation and question the mindset of blinkered Americans during the 1950s and 1960s.

Overall, ‘The Banker’ transforms what is a relatively mundane topic of a business transaction into an action-packed, political masterpiece. Invest your time into this film, and you certainly won’t regret it.

4 stars

Image: Movie DB

Oliver Morgan is a screen contributor at Forge Press.

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