Actors turned directors are often a very hit and miss area of filmmaking. Clint Eastwood is the classic example of an actor who was transcended the medium of iconic actor and become a filmmaker of much the same level. However, other actors have made such an attempt only to fail.

Denzel Washington was critically acclaimed when he made his directorial debut in Fences, in which he managed to get stellar performances out of himself and his co-star Viola Davis. In A Journal For Jordan we see Washington adapt the true story of Sergeant Charles King (played by Michael B. Jordan) a soldier who was killed in combat in the war in Iraq following the 9/11 attacks. The film shows how King met the titular Jordan’s mother and expands on their blossoming relationship, juggling jobs at the New York Times and serving tours in Iraq.

Sony Pictures

As per Washington’s reputation, he does get some good performances out of his actors. Michael B. Jordan plays an emotionally tight and combat experienced veteran extremely competently. While he essentially amounts to being a nicer version of Erik Kilmonger, he does have great chemistry with his on screen girlfriend (played by newcomer Chanté Adams) who also brings in some really emotional moments. She’s effectively the main character as the story is told mostly through her eyes. There are points where it seems like her character is acting quite unreasonably given the profession of her partner; though this is down more to the true story and the screenplay rather than the actress as Adams pulls off this moments convincingly.

On the other hand, elsewhere, Washington’s talents seem to fall very flat and outside of some great acting, the film is disappointingly dull. The way it’s shot is akin to something you’d see on Channel 5 on a Sunday afternoon with very flat lighting and static camera movement. While some scenes do succeed in extracting a tear from your eyes, this effect could have been increased tenfold had there simply been more in the way of shot variety. The scenes that manage to be emotional are as such more because of the actors and their performances rather than anything that’s going on behind the camera. One part in particular near the end is actually really badly filmed but thanks to Michael B. Jordan’s acting it’s still a tearjerking moment. 

Sony Pictures

What’s more is that the dialogue is much the same. The script reads like the attempts of a film student in first year with ridiculously predicable dialogue, corny loving chats and frankly stupid one liners. With that being said though, you do still care for the characters.

There are a few tears to be shed in A Journal For Jordan thanks mostly to the talent of its cast and its director’s knowledge of the acting craft. The story, script, technical direction and soundtrack, however, are all very run of the mill and basic. For the slightly overlong time you spend with them, the King family do grow on you, but you probably won’t remember the film after a week or so. 

A Journal For Jordan will release in cinemas on Friday 21st January

By Freddie Deighton

Freddie is the Interviews Editor and resident Batman expert at FilmHounds. He has a degree in Digital Film Production from Ravensbourne University London and he graduated from The BRIT School. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd for more movie ramblings