1.Give only the barest summary of the plot.
2. Give your review a focus. There are several elements to a film’s production – cinematography, acting, music and sound design, costume design, acting, and screenwriting to name but a few – but you have a limit of 650 words so don’t worry about covering all bases; be selective – choose the element or two that stood out to you most, for good reasons or bad, and structure your review around them.
3. It is generally useful to have some awareness of a director’s career beyond the film that you are reviewing; this will allow you to identify thematic interests, political alignments, or stylistic preferences that might add a useful spin to your review. However such background shouldn’t replace your analysis/evaluation of the film; just remember that you are reviewing that specific film, not the film maker’s career.
4. Don’t be scared to bring a personal voice to your review, but do try to remain analytical rather than descriptive. If you particularly enjoyed the film, say why; if you didn’t, likewise. If a character was especially likeable, was it due to the actor’s performance or the strength of the script? If you liked a particular atmosphere that was created, was it because of the sound design, the camera work, or perhaps the performance?
5. Strike a balance between the analytical and the personal. Getting too caught up in technical jargon can be alienating for the reader, but writing up too much of your personal experience of seeing the film, the auditorium, that annoying person eating crisps etc. should also be avoided. Focus should be the film.
Make every word count!