|25th Hour is a highly dramatic film with Spike Lee's very unique mark all over it. With slowly rolling shots involving actors who seem to float through the frame to long meandering scenes which involve a lot of extemporaneous dialogue, this picture has Spike Lee written all over it. The film certainly has some impressive performances and although the supporting characters sometimes take the stage for a few minutes too long, the drama remains strong throughout.|
Where this film is at its best is when both the story and characters are moving forward. Sometimes the scenes travel forward at far too slow a pace to keep the film gripping. And since the story is about a man's last twenty-four hours before he begins a seven-year jail term, every second of the film should "count." But sometimes the characters go off on a rant about something that halts the story in its tracks. The ironic thing is that every one of the performances is top notch. So it's hard to criticize the film's story when the characters are so interesting.
Edward Norton in particular displays again his talent for absolutely becoming the character he plays. While it's said he used method acting to create his characters (meaning he tries to actually feel what his characters would feel in order to make the performance realistic), the force with which he says his dialogue really comes from his gut. Needless to say, the film improves a notch when he's on screen. And really, although every other performance is solid, the film just trips up when his angle of the story isn't being covered.
Like when Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper, both who play Norton's life-long friends, have a five minute conversation (in one very long take) in an apartment that just happens to overlook the site where the World Trade Center towers used to stand. The strong imagery of the scenery notwithstanding, the characters say what they need to say in the first thirty seconds of the scene, but the keep speaking back and forth to one another for far too long after their respective points have been made.
As to whether a viewer of this film can stand the sustained conversations probably depends on if that viewer likes the actors or the director. Because when a couple of supporting characters talk for that long (and they do on more than one occasion), the story ceases to be owned by the character that Norton plays. And in addition, the inclusion of post-9/11 imagery into the film doesn't seem to have a clear motive. For example, various shots from around New York City that show the Twin Tower spot-lights that were on display earlier this year, are displayed during the beginning credits. Not a strange move in and of itself, but for the context of the film, the shots don't seem to really belong.
The movie begins with a medium length scene where Norton's character, "Monty," stops his car on a rainy street corner to rescue a dog that has been beaten and left for dead. The scene has some laughs, some serious moments, and gets the movie off to a great start. But then the beginning credits start to roll and the audience is treated to a bombastic orchestral score and a two-minute visual tribute of sorts to the Twin Towers. These two scenes seem to have come from two totally different films. Although the 9/11 elements are effective on their own merit, it's still unclear as to why Lee included this aspect in the movie.
On another confusing note, it is quite a mystery as to why the DEA agent that busts Norton's character for heroin possession and sale had such annoying dialogue. Who knows if it is the actor or the way the character was written, but that agent (whose name I cannot locate on the IMDB) needs to be slapped. Though not every character is so strange. The two women characters, played by Rosario Dawson (as Norton's girlfriend) and Anna Paquin (as a high school sex-pot) both give strong performances, even though the movie really isn't centered on their characters and both of their story-lines kind of fade out at the end of the film.
It is doubtless Spike Lee wanted to make this picture into an intriguing movie but couldn't help putting in some timely information about the state of the world in his film. Lee is a conscientious filmmaker who always has a strong opinion to display in his movies, but his thoughts on 9/11 (well, more the visuals than his thoughts), seem misplaced. While the combination of Trade Towers images and stirring music is nice, what does it have to do with a man who has twenty-four hours left of free life? While there is a very strong speech made by Norton's character that includes the highest number of non-politically correct sentences in one scene in movie history, the well-said speech still seems out of place.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.