Mangrove ★★★★½

Major work in a deceptively conventional form, fronted by immersion into an underrepresented culture, backloaded with a ferocious courtroom drama. As usual, McQueen trains the camera on carefully chosen faces and spaces—most of his films would work as silent cinema—and never turns it away from rage and despair. There’s a lingering shot of a quivering colander that’s fallen after a raid; it’s heavy-handed and no less effective: A country is trying to strain the refuse from its stew. 

On second watch, it was nice to be reminded that there is almost as much joy and exultation and music at the Mangrove Restaurant as there is, ultimately, fear and injustice. I’m not sure this is a Message Movie so much as it is a recitation and exploration of Wrongness—why the world is fucked up, why systems fail and attack people trying to carve out their little piece. There’s no lesson or moral valence more complicated than fundamental equality. All of McQueen’s movies are tragedies, even if the hero triumphs. Things never really get better.