Mass Movie Review
An explosive four-person drama about grief, blame, and forgiveness, Mass is a dialogue-driven picture that seeks to punch, scratch, and claw at your soul until there is nothing left.
About two couples who seek some semblance of moving on after a mass school shooting years later, Mass takes four seemingly immovable forces, played by Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney, and Ann Dowd, and thrusts them at each other, causing the kind of destructive energy you may expect.
Less predictable is that the movie comes from the mind of Fran Kranz, best known for playing the stoner in Cabin in the Woods. Mass is his feature-length debut as both writer and director, and wow, what a powerful first effort.
The writing shouldn’t at all be minimized, but Mass is powered by its four stars, who each take their turn throwing grenades, and dodging them… though taking turns may not exactly be accurate, as shots are often being fired from all sides at any given moment. But the movie isn’t full of hate; it’s a complex, fascinating, engrossing attempt by four individuals actively seeking to understand how what happened happened, while also making sure others understand their anguish as well. The underlying situation is unfathomable, and yet Mass is utterly believable thanks to its powerhouse script and actors.
Its one weakness is its length. At nearly two hours long, the movie’s emotionally devastating onslaught begins to wear out its welcome, but the real issue is that Kranz spends a surprisingly long time setting the scene; the four main actors don’t even appear on screen until about 20 minutes in. Kranz’s decision to bookend his film with additional characters who have no direct bearing on the drama is odd and arguably unnecessary, though you can see what he was attempting to do; to portray individuals who observe tragedies from afar, who comprehend the awfulness of the situation without actually being able to understand it.
Whatever Kranz was trying to do, he could have started the movie with the four leads walking into the room and the film likely would have benefited.
Despite a few minor flaws, Mass is an incredibly immersive drama powered by four incredible performances.
This movie was reviewed as part of coverage of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.