Bilal full movie review - What a big letdown
I never review on IMDb but the score this movie has gotten over here is shameful and misleading. I had to do something about it. I am one of the people who were waiting for the film to come out for the past year.
I even invited all my foreign colleagues to watch it with me because I truly believed that this movie was a positive display and an ode to Islam and its heroes, a movie we can be proud of. I hung my head in shame as the end of the film credits rolled. Content wise, the movie shied away from everything Islamic to the point where the narrative made no sense. It tried to redeem itself as the credits rolled but the damage was already done and severe. But honestly, that was the least of its problems. Visually, it was good in some parts, but as my friends who watched it pointed out, it's easy for Arabs to buy quality execution. They have the money, but it always goes wrong when they are at the helm. Sadly I agree with them here. And here comes the amazing contribution of the Directors/Writers/producers of the film. Mr. Jamal and Mr. Alavi failed on all accounts. Most of the dialogue written was meant for a small children's movie while the movie was rated PG13 and was very violent at times and horribly paced through its entirety. And the parts that were not written for children were glued in randomly and did not make any sense as a whole. My sister took her children to watch it but found herself trying to explain everything to them and soon gave up because they started fidgeting around bored and unable to concentrate. I wouldn't blame them because at the screening I was at, we were about 15 people and 2 of them walked out mid movie and it was easy to spot them because you could hear chatter across the theater as people began to get confused.
SPOILERS Hamza shows up early mid movie, makes no contact with Bilal. He disappears for a good while. Bilal is tortured and tormented in public for unclear reasons (Equality? Brotherhood? Allah maybe? The movie couldn't decide). He is rescued then suddenly he and Hamza are best friends despite having never spoken before. Then Hamza dies suddenly and out of nowhere. Really there is someone talking and then you see Hamza dead. If I didn't know the story by heart I would not understand anything. I know none of the people I invited understood anything. I doubt any foreign audience who is non Muslim would understand anything. I was trying my best to be an interpreter but most of the time I got confused myself.
And yes, these friends gave me horrible comments. They told me: "So in this movie, everyone who is not a Muslim is evil or insane? So you guys have been killing each other that long for the same reasons?" That's not a good message to get out of a movie that is supposedly well representative of Islam. But thankfully they joked the movie off and did not take anything seriously.
The directing was inconsistent. It felt like watching different movies glued together. The movie 300 popped twice (Safwan's random kicks). I think everybody was laughing for all the wrong reasons.
It's funny how Islam in this specific movie was omitted since as all the media pointed out it was fully funded in the Gulf. I've seen movies funded in the west that did a better job representing Islam (Kingdom of Heaven, Lion of the Desert, Lawrence of Arabia, The Message...)
Spoilers: And I am ashamed of the way Bilal was portrayed. One moment he was completely passive, the other he was so violent to the point that it scared me. I expected to see a hero, I saw a badly portrayed historical figure that you cannot relate to on any level. The whole thing was so pretentious it breaks my heart. Even everything they tried to convey using the character of his mother made no sense and was random especially when Bilal's absolutely disappointing big moment at Medina was unfolding. And the only other leading female was merely there for Bilal to be angry and to go to war for.
Now, the performances. I don't know what to say. Some were fine. The first time I heard Bilal I was scared. He sounded like a giant in a tiny man's body. Bilal's sister and his mother were well cast but they felt that they were reading a newspaper most of the time. As Siddiq was good but he sounded like a modern day equality movement preacher. The accents in the movie kept changing and I cringed when they pronounced each other's names. This movie needed to be in Arabic with Arab celebrities at the helm. I did not care for any of the names attached to it, but I did not expect the performances to be this bad.
The music... I wanted it to go away, honestly. It would not stop. It was everywhere. I don't know whether the directing was bad or the composer had no idea what he was doing.
The sound design was great. It helped with understanding a lot of things that did not make sense.
Ultimately the movie fails as a movie and not just as a representation of Islamic History.