Sound of Metal roars on every level

Riz Ahmed delivers a riveting performance in Amazon Prime’s Sound of Metal.

One of my favorite superheroes in the Marvel canon is Daredevil, the man without fear. There is something very inspiring about a character who, despite his awful luck and less than ideal circumstances, decides that he is going to do his best to make the world a better place. There’s also the fact that Matt Murdock is, in fact, blind. I have to admit that I am a sucker for stories of individuals with a handicap overcoming adversity, as they inspire me to try harder in my own, admittedly more comfortable, circumstances. 

Sound of Metal, a film that first premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2019 and recently got a worldwide release on Amazon Prime, is one such story of a heavy metal drummer who starts to lose his hearing and must come to terms with being deaf in a world full of sound. Intimate and enthralling, Sound of Metal is a triumph thanks to impeccable acting and creative sound editing. 

Riz Ahmed stars as Ruben, the heavy metal drummer in question, and his performance is nothing short of perfect. It is an impressive feat; as the movie is told from his point of view, about a third of it does not have any sound at all. This means that Ahmed has to emote even more than usual, conveying complex emotions through his face and body expressions alone. 

It is impossible to not buy his fear and frustration as his world gets more and more silent, and the supporting cast that surrounds him (some who are actually deaf in real life) is equally up to the task. It would normally be difficult to keep my attention in dead silence, but somehow everyone involved kept me enthralled the entire way through. 

This brings me to the sound editing which, by the way, is not something I usually care about. I may review movies, but a lot of the subtleties of filmmaking are often lost on me; when the category comes up during the Oscars, I use it as a pee break. 

But the sound editing in Sound of Metal is central to the feel of the movie. As I said, about a third of it takes place in complete silence, but another third takes place somewhere in between quiet and full sound. There is one memorable party scene that starts with the audio at full blast, showing how everyone else hears a song that is being performed, before becoming more and more distorted until we are shown how Ruben hears it. 

When the volume is at normal levels, the movies tends to showcase pretty sounds like chattering insects and pattering rain to amplify the tragedy of the situation. Creative sound choices such as this makes me feel like I am going deaf right along with him, which is terrifying and oddly claustrophobic. 

All of this combined with an impressive and realistic script makes Sound of Metal a singular experience with a whole lot of intimacy, and one that I highly recommend.

Sound of Metal is now available on Amazon Prime.