Directed by George Nolfi , “The Banker” is a relatively unknown story told in a very familiar way. Co-writers Nolfi, Niceole Levy, David Lewis Smith and Stan Younger work the script to hit those biopics beats we’ve come to know and love—and to a certain extent, tire from. Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen dutifully adds a light sepia tinge to make the shots look aged. There’s a big rousing moment where Bernard gets to stand up to a bench full of judges to decry systemic racism and oppression. There’s another where characters gather to say something’s impossible but they do it anyway. And there are many dramatic scenes that play out over folded hands and stern looks. It’s not that these moments are bad per se, it’s that many, many movies have used the same emotional storylines to win audiences over before.
"The Terminator." One afternoon during a break in filming, Arnold Schwarzenegger went into a restaurant in downtown L.A. to get some lunch and realized all too late that he was still in Terminator makeup - with a missing eye, exposed jawbone and burned flesh.
In a sense, “The Banker” is trying to do what “Hidden Figures ” accomplished a few years ago. Instead of recreating the lives of prominent names in history books, like “Selma ” and “Loving,” it unearths the names of everyday Black Americans who tried to defy the odds in their own worlds, as with the engineers in “Hidden Figures.” But unlike “Hidden Figures,” “The Banker” doesn’t need to create a sympathetic white character to break the monotonous flow of on-screen racists. Instead, Bernard and Joe’s working relationship with Matt doubles as commentary on how even allies can fail despite their best intentions.
"The Social Network." During one of the depositions, it is mentioned that the invention of Facebook made Mark Zuckerberg "the biggest thing on a campus that included nineteen Nobel Laureates, fifteen Pulitzer Prize winners, two future Olympians, and a movie star." One of the lawyers then asks, "Who was the movie star?" and the response is, "Does it matter?" This movie star was, in fact, Natalie Portman, who was enrolled at Harvard from
Although Mackie hits the mark playing the no-nonsense, dour-faced Bernard, the movie doesn’t allow him a lot of range beyond flashing some occasional pent-up anger. Thankfully, his co-star Jackson livens up every scene with his rascally character, an underestimated businessman in his own right and whose treatment by Bernard slightly opens up issues of socio-economic class within the Black community. With the added influence of Matt, who must learn how to behave and present himself as a rich man from the East Coast, there’s a deeper look at how class factors into the business world. Unfortunately, Eunice is somewhat of a one-note character, lovingly supportive and sometimes involved in the men’s scheme, but treated very much as an ancillary character to shows off costume designer Aieisha Li ’s period ensembles.
"My Left Foot." Daniel Day-Lewis broke two ribs during filming from assuming the hunched-over position in his wheelchair for weeks of filming. He also would refuse to come out of character. On visits to the set canteen, other people would have to help him with food.
“The Banker” has the look and feel of an idolizing biopic. The movie glosses over several events in Garrett’s life and rewrites portions of his own personal history, as well as Eunice’s role during the time depicted on-screen (to say nothing of the recent allegations of sexual abuse that came out against former co-producer and son of the main character Bernard Garrett Jr.). H. Scott Salinas’ score often shows up thick and heavy with swelling notes, saddling some moments with too much gravitas. Other scenes get too bogged down in the housing market math to flow freely into the next action, and skim over more damning redlining policies that kept potential Black homeowners out of neighborhoods across the country. This simplistic look at the fuller picture makes it seem Garrett and Morris were the only Black men who did not lack the wits and resources to take on housing inequality head-on, yet there were probably others like them who just haven’t had a movie made about them yet. With this in mind, “The Banker” remains only serviceable.
George Lucas’ Dog Inspired Chewbacca. The creator of the Star Wars world would drive around with his large Alaskan Malamute in the front seat of his car, which he described as “bigger than a human being and very long-haired.” The affection he felt for the dog was what gave him the idea for the connection between Han Solo and Chewbacca. (Fun fact: He was named Indiana.)
"Cast Away." To make himself look like an average out of shape middle aged man Tom Hanks didn't exercise and allowed himself to grow pudgy. Production was then halted for a year so he could lose fifty pounds and grow out his hair for his time spent on the deserted island.