Based on the Jim Crow-era publication advising safe travel practices for African Americans, ‘Green Book’ impresses thanks to leading duo Mershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen.

A sensational cast transforms this true story about two men dealing with racial tensions back in 1962 into one of 2018’s funniest and best films. Using well-timed comedy relief throughout to offset deeply rooted racial tensions that flare up, “Green Book” emotionally navigates the heartfelt rapport which develops between two completely opposite individuals. 

Crammed into a two-month road trip along the Deep South are highly acclaimed African-American pianist, Dr. Don Shirley, and his newly hired white driver and personal security guard, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. Embarking on the piano-playing Shirley’s concert tour by car requires Vallelonga to run interference on any complications that may arise. Most of the events are confined to blatant racial hostilities and discrimination against the black musical prodigy Shirley. All remaining antagonism in the movie gets verbally sparred in comical give-and-takes between the two main stars. 

Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) masterfully portrays the affluent Dr. Shirley while Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”) shines even brighter as the New Yorker and bouncer by trade Vallelonga. Their special bond develops over time from kindness, respect and loyalty. Each man’s acceptance of the other’s flaws and imperfections illuminates their own shortcomings and need for change.

Perhaps the strongest ensemble on film this year, Ali and Mortensen give powerful performances that keep viewers both laughing and on edge. Mortensen packed on 50-pounds for his role as the rough, but fair, Vallelonga. A two-time Academy Award nominee, Mortensen just might have won his first Oscar with this gem. Linda Cardellini (Netflix’s “Bloodline”) effortlessly amuses Mortensen as Tony’s wife, Dolores, showing off Vallelonga’s softer side.

Expect this heartwarming bond between two men willing to listen and change to garner significant awards over the next six weeks. “Green Book” will surprise viewers with its laughter and an endearing personal look inside a musician and his driver that goes well beyond their professional chemistry. This stirring movie will earn best picture votes and an Oscar nomination for Mortensen. Ali and the rest of the cast may also get well-deserved nominations.

Those looking for a delightful and funny film that explores tolerance and personal change will find “Green Book” the perfect entertainment over this holiday season. A must-see movie about acceptance and kindness, “Green Book” rates as one of 2018’s top films.   

Grade: A+

“Green Book” is rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Patrick King is a resident of Tucson and writer for the Reel Brief movie blog at  Email him at

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