Based on the true story and directed by Brian Helgeland, Legend follows the rise and fall of the notorious 1960s gangsters, twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray (both portrayed by Tom Hardy), two of the most well-known criminals in British history. Based on the book The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins by John Pearson, Legend explores the relationship that bound the twins together, details how they built their organised crime empire in the East End of London, and charts their gruesome career until their ultimate downfall and imprisonment for life in 1969.
Legend is a stylish and bold celebration of the British gangster genre, with an incredible soundtrack and a showcase of phenomenal performances and British actors. Telling the infamous true story brilliantly, Legend is equally intense (although romanticized), engaging (always driven by character), brutal (in small doses), and full of emotion (when needed).
What we were all watching this film for in the first place, however, was for Tom Hardy‘s double performance, and that’s what has led this film to be such a big success. Playing both twins, it’s amazing to see Hardy give two very different performances alongside each other. We’ve seen him play the tough guy often enough, but he always brings his characters to life with such versatility. With Bronson being one of his biggest roles to date, you can trust that Hardy will lead a film based on a true story with a huge amount of dedication, which Legend only further proves.
But while everybody may be praising Hardy, I think we need to take some time out and applaud Emily Browning‘s efforts, too. Only a few days before watching Legend I watched her in God Help The Girl, a musical drama directed by Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, which she led alongside Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander. In this film, she gives an outstanding performance whilst also showing off her singing talents, which made me wonder why we don’t see a lot more of her. Most of Browning’s biggest performances that will be remembered are all from her younger years, including Ghost Ship and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, although more recently she has had big roles in less widely received films including Pompeii, Summer in February, Sleeping Beauty, and Sucker Punch. Still, she’s not overly well-known, which is a huge shame because, as her performance in Legend proves, she is one stunning and super talented young woman. Let’s hope that this film moves her onto much bigger things over the next few years.
But the whole cast is worth celebrating, and that’s why Legend will remain in my Top 10 films of this year. It’s a great example of how fulfilling British film can be, and although Legend may have its flaws in relation to how light-hearted the story feels at times, there is so much to praise about this film at the same time. Most of all, this is how a biographical drama should be told.