The Big Cigar

The Big Cigar
The Big Cigar
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The Big Cigar tells the incredible true story of how Hollywood producers, who had made Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, helped Huey P. Newton, the leader of the Black Panthers, escape to Cuba in 1974. The Apple TV+ miniseries that runs for six episodes is based on a Playboy article from 2012 written by Joshuah Bearman. Different thematic overtones are brought out depending on the perspectives of the characters involved with a very serious scenario where Newton runs away from racism, brutality by police officers and federal bureau of investigations (FBI), America’s most wanted while affluent moguls in Hollywood or their fans are somewhat darkly comedic. While some might be disappointed that Newton does not always take center stage, there is largely a successful attempt to tell an all-angles inclusive story.

Don Cheadle directs episodes one and two with style. He uses his visual sensibility to establish character motivations and relationships between individuals who were different places in every way imaginable. The pilot episode “Panther/Producer,” takes place in Oakland, California at a time when Huey P. Newton (André Holland) finds himself at a critical crossroads in life. This was after he had been released from prison following an overturned conviction for killing cop John Frey; flashbacks back to that fateful night years earlier becoming essential tools throughout.

Newton’s imprisonment changed his views on black revolutionary struggle because he believed in education through the Black Panther schools, healthcare services provided by them as well as food programs rather than resorting to violent resistance as an option: unlike Eldridge Cleaver (Brenton Allen) who sought refuge in Algeria but maintained his sway over the group (Eldridge Cleaver). Gwen Fontaine (Tiffany Boone), his girlfriend also lent him support aside others including Moses Ingram lobbied him for help elsewhere due to dire economic straits.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles, Bert Schneider (Alessandro Nivola), the son of Abraham Schneider who served as Columbia Pictures’ president, defied his father’s wishes and made Easy Rider with Dennis Hopper (Chris Brochu). The pair became counterculture sensations after a hit movie. Justitia’s true believer was Bert. He embraced Black empowerment and was prepared to assist in whichever means possible.

Schneider is initially unsuccessful in his attempt to meet Newton in Oakland. It changes dramatically when Scheider sees how much harassment Newton endures at the hands of the police throughout his life. There is going to be a bond that hinges on Newton’s guarded approval of their friendship. In 1974, he fled from Oakland after being charged with shooting a prostitute. This scared him; so, he decided to hide with Blauner who was not comfortable as well because they knew for sure that the FBI were watching every associate of Newton and there had got to be someway out of it for them.

The Big Cigar follows Argo which also adapted Bearman article on its plot outline. Although later episodes have comic bits, they are way more thrilling and suspenseful than before since birds of prey are gathering around. Cheadle’s dynamic storytelling has smart cuts and split screens throughout the opening sequence. Consequently, this alters when more characters are established within ongoing difficulties as the story progresses further into complexity where everything makes sense though differentiates from each other by appearance only but still has logic within itself while an increase in adrenaline would be expected as one grows older visually through it all: nerves get frayed when things go wrong during planning unexpectedly sideways.

Very good lead performances. André Holland brings out a nuanced and riveting performance as Newton. He wanted to be known for more than just one famous image of him sitting with a gun and spear. The series also captures his disquiet at being judged based on an image he never desired. The irony is that it ended up increasing his fame in ways that attracted the likes of Schneider. It was a warning shot across the bow of systemic oppression, but hampered Newton’s efforts at peaceful change.

Nivola and Byrne also receive almost equal narrative focus. There will undoubtedly be criticisms over the whitewashing of this story. It’s finally clear that the black protagonist fades into insignificance compared to white characters hereon. Hollywood as usual! This is too simplistic which does not take into account the driving point of the series itself? Why would Schneider and Blauner risk everything for Newton? Because they believed in what he stood for, in him, why else? His struggle represented something close to their hearts, they were ready for it anyway. This was a film made only to achieve one thing – The Big Cigar is all about artifice and trickery from beginning to end.” Without Schneider and Blauner none of it could have happened at all’. There are deeper levels that must be explored by them regarding their motivations throughout this time period.

A number of aforementioned secondary characters aren’t nearly so well-written as some others in this show are portrayed. Inny Clemons (Richard Pryor) has some depth while other familiar faces feel like mere props or sidekicks.. Fleeting appearances by figures such as Jack Nicholson (Owen Roth) do not really mean anything much in relation to the wider plot. Yes they were involved; yes they participated but if fleshed out there would be eye-candy rather than characters that served no purpose within document settings depicting otherwise serious events – whom exactly was I trying to assassinate, who might be this? There’s also a better turn from Jordane Christie as Bobby Seale, the Black Panthers’ co-founder and Glynn Turman (Newton’s father).

The Big Cigar is not trying to squeeze Newton’s legacy, the Black Panthers and their mission into a historical documentary. Its focus is on one period with flashbacks so as to make it clear how Newton came to be exiled. Newton, Schneider and Blauner had a very interesting relationship that should be seen. There are not many boring moments here.

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