Movie Review: Knights of Swing – Swinging against all odds.
‘Knights of Swing’ is a film set in 1947 in America, after World War II, when big band swing music was popular. The film follows best friends Gifford Williams (played by Curran Barker) and Nolan Edwards (played by Kyle DeCamp) who decried on forming a big swing band for their school.
The pair put together some friends and decided they need to have a musical director to help steer the group. So they decide to enlist the help of their teacher Herb Miller (played by Richard Neil).
The boys settle on the befitting name “The Knights of Swing” for the band.
Herb is initially reluctant to take up the challenge but his innate passion for music takes over sooner and he finds himself being more than just a musical director for the group. He helps in recruiting more talented guys and girls into the band.
Their goal is to qualify for compete in and possibly win the annual Battle of the Bands competition or the California circuit. But that proves to be not an easy goal to achieve for them.
The band faces their biggest obstacle in the person of Mrs Barlutski (played by Amanda Lamberti) a parent who believes the idea of the band is a waste of the school’s resources and the student’s time. She is relentless in trying to sabotage the band and succeeds at getting some other parents to help create problems and distractions for the band’s progress.
In the face of all the adversity, Herb and the school’s principal, Lou Arthur (played by Emilio Palame) a former jazz pianist are the band’s biggest advocates. Lou even sticks his neck out and puts his job on the line just to make sure that the bad succeeds.
But like in every group, there is some internal friction which leads to one of the band founding and key member breaking off and joining another school’s band.
The story film tells also explores the subject of racism in the 1940s. Besides some people not being happy with the school spending money on the band, they were particularly not happy that the band had some members who are people of colour. The racist utterances and disdain are blunt and give you a clear idea of how racists in those times were not afraid to show their racist behaviour.
There are several other characters in the film that qualify to have their own stories or subplots but sadly not that many are explored in enough detail. As much as you try to keep up with each of the characters and their stories, there are just too many of them to follow. So you are just forced to go in whatever direction the story is going in momentarily.
The film’s director Emilio Palame with his crew do well to capture the basic aesthetics of that era with the costuming, set design and art direction. But they carefully fail at capturing enough external sights and sounds to give you a full appreciation of how everything else looked like in the 1940s. Perhaps that isn’t the focus at all since the music is the focus of the film. And Palame brings his love for music to bare to make this film what it is.
As the story progresses you being to feel like the film is much longer than it should have been with a runtime total of 150 minutes. But the climax seems to make up for all the time spent on it. The story builds up to a showdown of talent and class at the Battle of Bands. At this point, you can’t help but allow yourself to enjoy the music from the opposing band as well. I found myself subconsciously singing the songs long after the film had ended.
Music does affect lives, and you see that in this film. Not just the band the people involved in making sure they succeed are affected by the power of music. But everyone else in this film gets to experience the impact of music.
In the end, ‘Knights of Swing’ is a feel-good film that just inspires and radiates good energy and is more enjoyable courtesy of the musical talents it showcases. If there is nothing that you take away from this film, it should not be the quality of the musical performances that seems to also improve as the story progresses.
I would rate this film 7.5/10.
The film’s strongest message and theme is perseverance. The band in the face of all the adversity never loose hope of the goal that they looking forward to achieving and they give them all to make sure that they get there or at least be able to say that they tried.
If you are a lover of music of any genre and not particularly swing, this is certainly a film you should see. It carries a positive message whilst remaining entertaining.