No matter whom we are, no matter where we live, we're all bound by borders. Many of us are content to live within these borders--others are simply forced to exist within them. But some of us need to break out, burst through, even if what is on the other side is both frightening and unknown. From this comes the tale of one young man's dilemma as he navigates his way through his colliding worlds. Set against Detroit's hip-hop scene in 1995, the story centers on Jimmy Smith Jr., a young white rapper, who struggles to find his voice. The people of Detroit know '8 Mile' as the city limit or a border. It is also a psychological dividing line that separates Jimmy from where and who he wants to be, as he struggles to find the strength and courage to transcend his boundaries.
The mission of this film is essentially to garner sympathy for a white rapper involved in an old-school shootout — a rap contest. This may be the final frontier for pop, more unbelievable than the prospect of launching a member of 'N Sync into orbit. The film's star, Eminem, doesn't appear to have a great deal of range, but he can play himself. Even though the protagonist is named Rabbit, the thoughtful "8 Mile" is a raw version of the rapper's own success story. This is basically an 80's go-for-it movie (the picture feels like some odd combination of "Flashdance" and "Purple Rain"), and Curtis Hanson has done a fine job of giving it a soul, though it's a gloomy, peeling-paint one. The movie has the echoey, haunted heart of Johnny Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt": maybe the project doesn't make sense in the abstract, but once you submit to it, it works. — Elvis Mitchell
2002-11-08 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of 8 Mile