Rewatched Aug 08, 2012
Josh Keown’s review:
“Let an earthquake crumble it, let the fires rage, let it burn to fucking ash and then let the waters rise and submerge this whole rat-infested place.”
-Monty Brogan (Edward Norton)
I’ve heard a lot of people describe 25th Hour as poetic, and I’d have to agree that that pretty much summarises the whole film.
25th Hour is Spike Lee’s 17th feature film in 16 years and, like all his previous films, very much aims to convey a strong message. Whereas his earlier works sought to explore racism, this focusses upon the aftermath of 9/11, and the humanity and compassion that was needed to reconcile after the tragedy. Although small in scale, it explores massive themes, especially how we should make the most of what little time we have.
The film follows Monty Brogan, a drug kingpin in New York, who has everything he could want – money, influence, genuine friends and a woman that loves him. It’s a lifestyle obviously caries risk, and greed catches him out. Cornered by the DEA and facing a stretch of seven years, we follow the anguish and turmoil of Monty as he attempts to find resolution in his last 24 hours of freedom.
Such a protagonist shouldn’t be likeable; he shouldn’t invoke sympathy, and yet Norton manages to extract it. His character is a drug dealer, he knew the hazards and consequences, and is deserved of his fate.
And yet. And yet it is still utterly heart-breaking to watch, knowing, as he does, what is in store for him. It takes an incredibly talented actor to make you feel genuinely sorry for him. Fortunately, Edward Norton is an individual of such calibre. To say this marvellous performance is probably still only his fourth best is testament to his talent (Beside Primal Fear, Fight Club and American History X). Oh and Norton’s infamous Fuck It All speech? Pure gold.
The rest of the cast are also excellent. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Whom delivers outstanding performances in everything) is terrific as the shy and confused, yet loyal, best friend Jacob, tortured by his lust for a 17 year old student (a great Anna Paquin). Brian Cox is brilliant as Monty’s father, James, as is Dawson as girlfriend Naturelle. Unexpectedly, Barry Pepper really shines as Monty’s other friend, Frank, especially toward the end.
The music is as much a character as Norton, Hoffman or Pepper, and it’s often borderline intoxicating. There is literally just so much going on with the sound, from jazz to the pop in the clubs. It’s very much like the classic 40's and 50’s Noir movies in the ambiance it creates.
Never shying away from controversial issues, Spike skilfully weaves the background of 9/11 into the subtext of the story, which creates another layer of depth beyond Monty’s story.
I guess my one major gripe would be with Agent ‘Shiiiiiiiieeeet’ Flood (Whitlock Jr.) and the other DEA Agents. They’re all just like caricatures, and I feel they detract from the film overall.
VERDICT; It’s a truly heartfelt film centred around one man, but also an empathetic look at larger issues. Once again I’ve warbled on too much, just watch it as you certainly won’t be disappointed.
4/5 or 8/10 (this could flick between a 9/10 for me, it’s just little gripes that bring it down sometimes.)