This year’s Sundance Film Festival has come out swinging with multiple directorial debuts. Hostage-thriller 892 is proving to be a major standout early on during the festival.
892 is based on the true story of Brian Brown-Easley, a Marine veteran who took a Wells Fargo bank hostage in Atlanta, GA back in July of 2017. He only took two bank employees hostage with claims of carrying a bomb, assuring them he would only detonate when they left the building safely. His demands? His stolen disability check he fought fervently to recover from the VA but the agency refused to help him. 892 not only depicts the tragedy that took place on that day, but the system that caused it.
892 is most certainly the thriller it sets out to be, yet it goes beyond shallow thrills. Director Abi Damaris Corbin reels us in from the moment the film starts, wasting no time with lengthy exposition. Moreover, the camera aims with pin-point accuracy, building tensions quickly and easily. Composer Michael Abels weaves in a haunting score to perfectly complement the wicked cinematography. The cast shines in portraying the fear and desperation to survive that one would expect in a bank robbery. Corbin eloquently constructs all of the moving pieces that make a class act thriller/drama.
However, despite an incredibly strong first act, the film meanders for a bit about halfway through. With such a lean portion in the beginning, it was jarring at times how the pacing slowed down a little too much. In spite of these lulls, the film brings itself together quick enough to land a phenomenally emotional third act.
This film marks Corbin’s feature debut. She also co-wrote the script with British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah. 892 features a solid cast that includes John Boyega (Pacific Rim Uprising), Michael Kenneth Williams (Django Unchained), and Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow). This film is also one of the last that esteemed late actor Michael K. Williams starred in, and his performance is no less than impressive. Nicole Beharie stands out as a powerful supporting performance. However, the true star of the film is John Boyega.
Boyega continues to prove once again that he is a marvel of an actor, worthy of protagonist roles. The desperation of a man who fought for his country facing homelessness because of that same country is palpable, and Boyega captures this tragic character with ease. Boyega adamantly avoids making a caricature of Easley. He approaches the role by focusing on the unraveling of a good man who wants nothing more but to do the right thing and be done right by. Boyega captivates his audience with every scene, making us feel every ounce of frustration Easley goes through. His performance feels shockingly reminiscent of a young Denzel Washington’s early career. One can only hope studios will finally take his talents with more seriousness.
Despite the film’s narrative setbacks, 892 shares a story that represents thousands of people like Brian: victims of a system designed to see them fail. John Boyega’s powerhouse performance carries this film, exercising his capabilities as a dramatic lead. This film is carefully structured in a way that vehemently avoids an exploitative lens in order to spotlight a tragedy that should have never happened. – Ileana Meléndez
892 is pending a wide release date. For more Sundance 2022 coverage, keep an eye on our Twitter page and this site!