Normally these types of “Based on a true story” films don’t work for me. They feel hammy, overly dramatic, and uninteresting. Percy vs Goliath changes that in a wonderful way. If you haven’t been paying attention to Christopher Walken‘s career lately, or you just think he’s that old guy that does comedies, this might change your mind.
Percy vs Goliath tells the story of Percy Schmeiser, a famer who’s sued by a gargantuan corporation for allegedly using their patented seeds. Being from a small-town in Saskatchewan, his legal options are pretty limited, but he teams up with a small-town lawyer and catches the attention of bigger environmental activists. It’s a story that you need to watch the film to fully understand how important it really is. It’s an early battle of GMO’s vs. natural food.
But let’s dig a bit deeper into the specifics of the film.
The Cast Of Percy vs Goliath
The film stars Christopher Walken as Percy Schmeiser, Roberta Maxwell as Louise Schmeiser, Zach Braff as Jackson Weaver, Christina Ricci as Rebecca Salcau, Adam Beach as Alton Kelly, and Martin Donovan as Rick Aarons. The cast of this film gels incredibly well together. Maxwell and Walken steal the show however. Their dynamic as the married couple under fire from a massive corporation is what drives the film.
I’ll just get it out of the way now. If you forgot that Christopher Walken is a fine actor, this film will remind you. He’s an Academy Award winner and he absolutely dominates this movie. Every scene he’s in, he commands attention. You can’t keep your eyes off him. Whether it’s him giving an impassioned speech in India or going to a town meeting about Monsanto’s (the evil corporation in the film) seeds. It’s 100% his film and he drives the action throughout.
His salt of the Earth performance is genuine. I kept thinking the entire movie, “damn, this reminds me of my Grandpa”. He’s long been that silly caricature of himself (which we all still love), but this performance brings him back firmly into greatness.
There Really Is No Face To The Villain
Monsanto is the villain of this story. Percy’s defense is that the seeds that he planted and used must have blown from a different farm. He never bought seeds from them. They don’t care. The only real type of villainous character you can see is Donovan’s turn as the lawyer opposite Zach Braff’s character Jackson. But he doesn’t really act like a villain, he’s just there to provide the case for Monsanto. He doesn’t cheat, he doesn’t do any dirty tactics in court. It’s really a great job by the director Clark Johnson and the writing team of Garfield Lindsay Miller and Hillary Pryor.
There are people who work for the Monsanto Corporation who are malicious though, so that’s how the film portrays them. Whether it’s people harassing Percy or his friends or Private Investigators, that’s how you can see the seedy (pun intended) underbelly of the corporate tactics.
For a film that doesn’t really have a face to it’s villain, the effects of that corporation can be seen all over Percy’s friends and family.
Characters Outside of Walken’s Performance
The other two performances that really shine through are Christina Ricci’s Rebecca and Zach Braff’s Jackson. They’re the ones that really help out Percy in defending himself. Braff doesn’t come off as the traditional “over-his-head” lawyer. Ricci also balances her performance. She could have veered into overbearing environmentalist territory, but she didn’t. There’s also a tinge of manipulation in her character to use Percy as a tool in her organizations fight against GMOs. It could have gone off the rails, but Ricci and Braff both reign in their characters well.
Roberta Maxwell does a good job of providing a more human element to Percy’s story. Without her, he would just be the gruff old man going up against a huge corporation. Her struggle is his struggle. She loses friends, has to stay behind at home while he goes off on tours to raise money, and she
Where The Film Loses A Bit Of Steam
Percy vs Goliath is a heavily fictionalized version of the events that happened in real life. Coming from a screenwriting background, a lot of time, reality is not that exciting. There aren’t grandiose speeches, events that move the plot along happen over years, not months or days. You need to create some tension, and this film does that with the events that surround Percy’s case. Lots of defeats up until the legal battle at the Canadian Supreme Court.
However, in between those legal battles and some of the events with his family, the film does drag a bit, especially when Percy goes to India. It’s there to show how global his fight has become but it drags down the proceedings a bit. With the lack of a clear cut and visible villain, sometimes the film feels like it’s fighting against an invisible enemy, but that’s not really a huge criticism.
At the end of the film, there’s not much suspense as to what happens and a victory feels like a defeat almost. It ends on a good note showing off the real life Percy and his family, so you end up feeling good through it all.
Why You Want To Watch This Movie
This movie combines a fantastic performance by Christopher Walken with an inspirational tale of a small-time farmer vs. a corporation. It doesn’t do it in the traditional way with hammy dialogue or over-the-top characters though. You’re left inspired by a man who could have (and at one point) did lose everything in his fight. In the year 2021, with so much darkness and defeat around us, we all could use a story like the one that Percy vs Goliath tells.
Walken gives us his best performance in years alongside strong performances from the rest of the cast. For someone who doesn’t normally like these types of movies, this was a refreshing view. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a pickup or to be inspired.
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