When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother's wife hurtlin... Read allWhen two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother's wife hurtling towards a shattering climax.When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother's wife hurtling towards a shattering climax.
It's one of those films whose plots are so thick, that one is very reluctant to go into details. It is a movie that is best enjoyed if entered without any prior knowledge to the events about to unfold, as there are twists and turns. But the thick and richly wrought plot is not at all at the center of this film; the true focus is, as I mentioned, the morality tale; the motives that drive these two men to the actions they do in the film. In a plot structured like a combination between the filmographies of both The Coen Brothers (namely Blood Simple and Fargo) and Quentin Tarantino, we see two men driven under various shady circumstances to pull off a fairly simple crime that goes incredibly, ridiculously wrong, and reciprocates with full force and inevitable tragedy. And to make it all the more interesting, the film is told in a fragmented chronology that keeps back tracking and showing a series of events following a different character every time and always ending up where it left off the last time. Sizzling, sharp, thick and precariously depressing, Kelly Masterson's screenplay is surprisingly poignant and well rounded, in particular because it is a debut screenplay.
But the film has much more going for it than just it's delectably sinister and quite depressing plot. First and foremost, the picture looks and feels outstandingly well. Sidney Lumet has, throughout his career, consistently employed an interesting style of cinematography and lighting: naturalistic and yet stylish at the same time. The film carries with it a distinctive air of style and class, with wonderful natural lighting that just looks really great. Editing is top-notch; combining the sizzling drama-thriller aspect with great long takes that really take their time to portray the action accordingly. And vivid, dynamic camera angles and movements further add to the style. The film is also backed by a fantastically succulent musical score by Carter Burwell.
The screenplay does its part, and of course Lumet does his part, but at the film's dramatic center are three masterful actors who deliver incredibly good performances. First and foremost, there are the two leads. Leading the pack is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has always been an excellent actor but has stumbled upon newfound leading-man status after his unnaturally fantastic Oscar-winning performance in Capote. His turn in this film is fascinating: severely flawed, broken, manic. Hoffman has some truly intense scenes in the film that really allow his full dramatic fury to come out, and not just his subtlety and wit. At his side is Ethan Hawke, who has delivered some fantastic performances in many films that are almost always overshadowed by greater, grander actors. Here, he bounces off Hoffman and complements him so incredibly well; in all, the dynamic acting between the two of them is just so utterly fantastic and convincing, the audience very quickly loses itself in the characters and forgets that it's watching actors. And then there's Albert Finney. Such a supple, opulent supporting role like the one he has requires a veteran professional and here Finney delivers his finest performance in many years as the tragically obsessed father to the two brothers who get caught up in the crime. I love how the dynamics between the three of them play out. I love how Hoffman is clearly the dominant brother and shamelessly picks on his younger brother even now that they're middle-aged men; and yet despite this, it is clear how Finney's father favours Hawke's younger, weaker brother. Also on the topic of the cast, the two supporting female characters wives of the brothers also feature fantastic performances from Amy Ryan and Marisa Tomei, whose looks just get better and better as the years go by.
This film isn't revolutionary. These themes and this style have already been explored by the likes of The Coen Brothers, and it's very easy to imagine them directing this film. But for a film that treads familiar ground, it simply excels. Lumet employs his own immense directorial talent and employs his unique and very subtle sense of irony and style to Masterson's brilliantly vivid, intense, and morbidly depressing first-time screenplay. The lead performances are incredibly intense and the film features absolutely fantastic turns from Hoffman, Hawke and Finney; but the truly greatest wonder of the film is that three years after he won a Lifetime Achievement Oscar, much revered as the ultimate sign of retirement in the film business, Sidney Lumet proves that he still has the immense talent to deliver a truly wonderful, resonant, intense piece of cinema reminiscent of his golden years.
- Dec 23, 2007