Sundance 2010 Review: NIGHT CATCHES US

James Wallace

by: James Wallace
December 3rd, 2010

Note: This review was originally published on January 24th, 2010.

Review: 3.5/5

Writer/Director: Tanya Hamilton
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Wendell Pierce

Set in 1976, NIGHT CATCHES US is the tale of Marcus Washington (a wonderful performance from the always strong Anthony Mackie), an ex-Black Panther, who returns to inner-city Philadelphia after fleeing from his home and former life years ago. But tension still runs high in his race-torn neighborhood despite the absence of the Black Panthers.

And yet, despite leaving his old life behind, it has not left him, as his reputation as a possible snitch still follows him where he goes. A snitch that supposedly ratted out his best friend, and fellow Panther brother, to the FBI, leading to the man’s murder and making a widower out of his wife Patricia Wilson (Kerry Washington). But as there’s two sides to every story, there’s usually also secrets buried within one side. For someone to be telling the truth, another has to be lying.

A politically driven, not to mention race driven, film like NIGHT CATCHES US comes at an all too perfect time in our nation, as many look to a future of hope and change in this Obama-age of living. We live in a time of our country’s first African-American president. This is a film that looks back, not forward, at an America that struggled to even give African-American’s rights or equality to begin with.

First time writer/director Tanya Hamilton (who has been working on the script since pre-Obama 1999 with the help of the Sundance Writer's Workshop), explores the issues of external and internal race wars with a poignancy and care for the way people thought back then versus the way people think now.

Unfortunately, the film falls a bit short in the end as it seems to drop off at the moment that Marcus and Patricia, and the film, have an opportunity for a defining moment. In other words, a conclusion to their situation that the entire film explores and works to show the trouble with. As Marcus walks away, unable to live in the chaos of the climate, Patricia chooses to stay, unable to let go of the past that she desperately runs away from and wants out of. In other words, it poses a question without an answer. “What are you going to do about it?” “Nothing.”

But, in retrospect, maybe this is Hamilton’s way of saying there still isn’t an answer. Racism still exists, as well as violence caused by it. And it will until people truly decide to change their way of thinking and work to understand one another. Marcus represents someone who can and does while Patricia represents the opposite. New thinking and old.

NIGHT CATCHES US looks to show these current issues in America by looking back at a time where things were vastly different but about to get better. And it comes at an all too pertinent time in our country where hopefully we will soon experience a similar occurrence. Luckily we have well-acted, beautifully shot, thought provoking independent films like NIGHT CATCHES US to help remind us.

And the soundtrack from The Roots doesn't hurt either.

Commenting Rules: Comments are intended to open up the discussion to our readers about the topics at hand, and as such should be offered with a positive and constructive attitude. If your comment is not relative to the above post or is disrespectful to the authors and readers, we reserve the right to delete it. Continued abuse of our good nature will result in banishment of the offender. Additionally, if you have any burning issues to point out to the GATW crew - typos, corrections, suggestions, or straight-up criticism - please email us instead of commenting here.

  • Recent Post