SilentDawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ryan Coogler's Creed is bone-chilling, both in its rousing emotion and its quiet reverberations across a detailed history of Boxing cinema. Tremendous style is woven into a superbly crafted genre piece, and the quiet moments are just as poignant as its various beat-by-beat story points. You know this narrative, but you haven't seen it told with such heartrending delicacy.
Coming off of 2013's excellent Fruitvale Station, Coogler and Jordan prove themselves to be a team of dexterity and deep-rooted understanding. Along with Sylvester Stallone's Oscar-Worthy performance as an aged and weathered Balboa, the highlight of Creed comes from the unwavering versatility from every player involved. This is a carefully told and bittersweet opera, and Coogler avoids any sense of gritty posturing or hyped-up cliches (ala Southpaw), instead forming his own mark on the Rocky saga through classical movement and sublime soundtrack usage.
Even better is how Coogler directs his actors through massive compositions and gigantic long-takes, somehow inviting the audience in and tightly trapping a plethora of emotions into the winding scope of his canvas. A particular fight, one bursting with intensity, is shot in one (seemingly) continuous take, and it is a spectacular effort not because of what it is, but what it implies; a roaming mind flowing through a claustrophobic maze, with shouts, screams, and grunts coming from all sides.
Creed is full of these moments, and they work precisely because of the genre that is built around such suffocating explosions of style. Ryan Coogler, much like F. Gary Gray or Cary Fukunaga, searches for the core feeling in every scene, and the result is a work of remarkable simplicity. Sadly, the "romance" subplot falters, especially since it tries to veer away from the confined boundaries that surround the rest of the film, and it's something that holds Coogler's vision back from truly soaring.
Not that Creed is lacking otherwise, far far from it. This is as stirring and deeply felt as a fight movie can get, and while it fails to capture the gorgeous electricity of Rocky, it doesn't necessarily need to. With its brisk and chilly evocation of modern Philly and slight tinkering to character dynamics, Creed is ultimately successful because it is respectful to those who have come before and who is ready to walk into view.