As the US heads into the Labor Day weekend, and the UK comes to terms with the summer being well and truly over (and largely disappointing), Netflix is wheeling out the big guns to make sure eyes are firmly back on streaming. And those big guns arrive in the shape of Worth – a new biographical drama which has just arrived on the service.
Directed by Sara Colangelo, Worth stars Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Amy Ryan, and Tate Donovan. The movie is based on the novel, What is Life Worth?, and tells the story of Kenneth Feinberg – a real-life attorney who back in 2001 was put in charge of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
In the movie, a week after the September 11th attack takes place, the airline industry meets with lawyers to discuss the legal ramifications of the tragedy. The industry worries that if every person involved in the attack takes legal action against the airlines, it will open up enough cases to bankrupt every travel company in the US.
To prevent the situation from escalating, a decision is made to create a fund that will pay every victim and their families a predetermined sum of money as a form of compensation. Kenneth Feinberg takes on the case, then has to determine how much money each individual claimant is worth.
The film is about looking at the emotional and financial fallout of a huge tragedy and ensuring the correct course of action is taken to do right by the people. It asks questions about how much value to put on a life and when, where, and if, a line should be drawn.
Now I mentioned that Worth is a big movie for Netflix and it is. You only have to look at the film’s two main stars to know why.
Michael Keaton (Spotlight, The Founder) and Stanley Tucci (Spotlight, Supernova) are acting powerhouses, and that tells you this is a significant release for the streaming service. The two actors have put in some incredible performances in recent years, and it’s no surprise they both deliver excellent turns in Worth.
Keaton gets the lion’s share of the movie, taking on the majority of the scenes, but Tucci’s supporting role brings a great deal of weight to the picture too. Together they deliver a hard-hitting tale about putting conscience before cash.
But it’s not just Keaton and Tucci which sell this picture. What works so well in Worth is the way that director Sara Colangelo approaches what is an incredibly difficult subject matter.
Cold hard facts and personal details relating to 9/11 are relayed through various conversations in the movie, but the director puts a lot of background detail into the film too. Through the use of minor gestures and almost unnoticeable touches, she manages to convey a huge amount of emotion without having to always put it front and centre.
Scrunched up leaflets to demonstrate frustration, discarded tissues to carry sadness, and miscommunicated words to highlight anger, are all ways in which Colangelo tells the story. The words and actions of the actors carry the majority of the narrative, but it’s these little moments, accentuated by sombre lighting and a hint of music, that bring additional weight to the story.
If you’ve felt that Netflix has been offering up some lacklustre movies as of late, with plenty of B-grade material, then you will find Worth to be a whole different ballgame. This is a film worthy of a cinema release, and the sort of picture Netflix should be striving to deliver each and every time.
Worth is an emotive piece of film, which looks at the enormity of a tragedy. From personal accounts through to financial necessities, it looks at 9/11 in its many facets, covering the black, the white, and the shades of grey of such a devastating incident.
This is a compelling story, packed with heart and substance. It features two perfectly pitched performances, an insightful narrative, and excellent direction. Stick it on your watch list.