Movie Review: Sleepers (1996)

It’s kind of incredible how something that at a point seems so innocent can turn into something horrible. This theme has been explored in film multiple times, “Atonement” (a movie I reviewed a while back) is only one example. And even though we’ve seen it several times, it is still endlessly fascinating.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Sleepers”.

The story follows a group of four friends. When they were young they meant to pull a prank, but it went disastrously wrong, which got them sent to a youth detention center. There they endured brutal abuse by multiple caretakers. And this plot follows the friends before, during, and after their horrifying time at this detention center and how it affects their lives. It might sound like I’m spoiling the plot of this, but I’m really not. I give you what you need to know to understand what it’s about… but I’m keeping enough away as to not spoil it. Anyhow, is this plot good? Yes. It’s dark, disturbing, and harrowing, but it’s still interesting and kept me engaged from start to finish. It is a long movie, and it does feel like it. While I’ve watched movies with much worse pacing than this, there were still moments where the pacing dragged a little bit. But those moments aside, this is a truly engaging plot.

I’m not gonna talk too much about the characters here, because their personalities and paths are better experienced rather than explained. But in the core cast of friends we have Jason Patric, Brad Pitt, Billy Crudup, and Ron Eldard. And they are all great in the roles. Then we have Joe Perrino, Brad Renfro (R.I.P), Geoffrey Wigdor, and Jonathan Tucker as the young versions of the four friends. And they all do very well in the roles as well. Then we have Robert De Niro as a goodhearted priest, and he’s great in the role. Then we have Kevin Bacon as one of the “caretakers” at the detention center, and his character is an absolute fucking scumbag… and Bacon is really good in the role. And then there’s a bunch of great supporting work here from people like Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver, Vittorio Gassman (R.I.P), Frank Medrano, and many more. Not a weak link in this entire cast.

The score for the movie was composed by the one and only John Williams and let’s fucking face it, the man can do no wrong. The score is emotional, tense, and just overall fits the movie very well, often taking scenes from “pretty good” to “wow” levels. Seriously, it’s great. Williams is a master.

This movie was written and directed by Barry Levinson and is based on a book by Lorenzo Carcaterra. As for the accuracy to the book, I can not attest as I have not read it at the time of writing this. But I can speak for how Levinson did in writing/directing, and I think he did a damn good job. His direction is very tight and really pulls the viewer into the scene, making you feel like you’re there with the characters. He even manages to create some decent tension throughout, which is really cool. The cinematography by Michael Ballhaus is also pretty damn good. My only real flaw within this whole “technical/general stuff” part is that there were some weird edits thrown into certain parts of the movie. I kind of get what they were going for with those small edits, but it took me out of the movie for a moment or two when it happened. It’s not enough to break the movie for me, but it does bring it down a couple of notches.

This movie has gotten a little bit of a mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 74% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 49/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,6/10.

“Sleepers” isn’t an easy watch, but it’s definitely worth your time. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing/cinematography. As previously mentioned, I did have a couple of flaws with it. The pacing in a couple of moments dragged a little, and there were a couple of weird edits. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Sleepers” is an 8,99/10. While flawed, It is still definitely worth buying.

My review of “Sleepers” is now completed.

If you sleep through this movie, I will appreciate the pun and then yell at you.

One thought on “Movie Review: Sleepers (1996)

  1. I liked this one a lot, especially the scenes with the older actors. I would give it a better rating than it got on RT, as I was gripped all the way through. Ebert’s score was nearer the mark.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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