Watched Jul 08, 2012
After almost forty years, David Cronenberg's mastery of his craft is undeniable, but I must admit that not all his projects since he stopped working in the horror genre have moved me. I felt a History of Violence was a bit overrated, for example.
But this is a masterpiece, the beste gangster movie since Miller's Crossing. Cronenberg uses his body-horror experience to great effect in depicting the brutality of the russian mob (portrayed by Mueller-Stahl, Cassel and Mortensen who feel like they've stepped out of an eastern Godfather, one of many gangster movies this movie seems to gently reference). This is tempered with the regular, grey lives of Naomi Watts and her kin. It simultaneously feels real and Iconic; several scenes here, particularly the climactic one, feel cinematically powerful enough to warrant this instant classic status. A child's peril hasn't been this engaging since Potemkin.
Almost everyone involved are at the top of their game here (Mortensen, Cronenberg, Watts, Mueller-Stahl, composer Howard Shore whose score is both hummable and heartbreaking), with the possible exception of Vincent Cassel, who is merely very good.
Cronenberg's cold, analytical style is tempered by the humanity of his performers. This is an elegiac, tense and surprisingly warm little masterpiece of a movie. If you've never seen a Cronenberg movie this would be an excellent place to start.