25th Hour Reviews
One of the first American movies explicitly set in New York after 9/11, this film is based on a novel by David Benioff (who also wrote the screenplay) that was published well before the attacks. In any case, their aftermath is not so much the topic of Mr. Lee's movie as an important element of its atmosphere. In one of the film's most memorable scenes, two characters talk in an apartment overlooking ground zero, whose floodlighted glare and somber activity make it impossible to concentrate on the dialogue: a case of reality overwhelming fiction. There are also more subtle nods to the aftermath of those horrific events, but Lee smartly doesn't ovedo it; he uses the sociopolitical landscape of a post-9/11 America to great effect here, weaving it into the fabric of his story as a means to enhance, not distract.
Undoubtedly, the show-stopping scene in the film is a moment when Monty (Edward Nortion), staring into a men's room mirror, launches into a profane tirade against his fellow New Yorkers (and everyone else). His rage is impressively ecumenical, encompassing blacks, brutal police officers, gays, Osama bin Laden, the rich, the poor and every other ethnic or social type you can think of: all of them put down with ruthless, scabrous precision. Obviously the sequence is very reminiscent of a similar scene in Do The Right Thing, but surprisingly, it's equally as effective here as it was back then (which could be viewed as a powerful statement on how little progress we've made over the years).
Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the brilliantly ambiguous ending. It is Lee's mission statement that this isn't a film about a plot, with a beginning, middle, and end. This is an imprint of the isolated times we live in. Who are we as a people? How do we define ourselves in relation to others? The whole film plays in a subdued, almost depressing tone. There are no laughs to be had, no falsely engineered moments where the characters break bread, and cry, and get all remorseful -- none of that. We feel as Monty feels: perplexed, distressed, unsure of those things to come and angry for how he happened to arrive at this place, and moment, in his life -- his last 25 hours.
Based on the novel by David Benioff - who also wrote the screenplay, it tells the story of Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) a Manhattan drug dealer who has to confront the choices he has made in life on his last day before serving a seven-year prison sentence. He spends his last 24hours of freedom with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) his father (Brian Cox) and his two best friends Frank (Barry Pepper) and Jake (Philip Seymour Hoffman), all the while determining who really sold him out.
This is a Spike Lee "joint" I don't mind taking a hit off, at all. Filled with very intense and dramatic conversations and confrontations between the characters, delivered with superb performances. Norton and Hoffman have already cemented their reputations but Pepper is a highly under-rated actor that I predict will be winning awards very soon with the quality he consistantly delivers. It's a real joy to watch them bounce off each other, adding real gravitas to some well written dialogue. Lee's direction is also up close and personal, giving it a further sense of realism. The post 9/11 psyche of New Yorkers is a running theme throughout and even one scene has two characters overlooking ground-zero as they discuss the end of an era. Lee also explores the multi-cultural diversity of the city, like he has done previously in "Do The Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever", among others. The diversity is also played out in the three friends, with very different values. It's an ambitious film with nearly every other scene or character, subtly displaying metaphor for the fragile state of the city they inhabit.
Despite a running time that slightly overstays it's welcome, this is a highly charged and thought-provoking allegory of capitalist America and boasts three superlative, indefatigable performances from Norton, Pepper & Hoffman.
Acting's top-notch all around. Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays the slurred slo-mo of drunkenness wonderfully, it's too bad my only complaint with the film is that his relationship with his student could have used more of a resolution. But perhaps the whole point is that it's left open. Hoffman's conversation in front of the window with Barry Pepper, who definitely holds his own, is just amazing. And of course, there's Edward Norton's f*ck-you salute to New York, which speaks for itself.
The attack on the World Trade Center cut right to the heart of capitalist America, and in combining the post-9/11 setting with the questions of responsibility for one's actions, Lee has put together a very good film. Monty, in the end, must pay for his mistakes, as must his friends, who stood by until it was too late and seem to have supported his behaviour in a textbook passive-aggressive manner; and while I will never suggest that America deserved to be attacked, it might be plausible to suggest that, due to their foreign policy choices over the past 50 years, they, like Monty, in a sense had it coming.
The dark side of self-interest and self-involvement comes to the fore in the form of a latent and primal (male) competitive instinct, and all three men, friends since their youngest years, are irreparably damaged.
Though the movie jumps around a lot in the first half, it comes back on track beautifully in the end to hammer its point home: no one can escape responsibility for their actions. It all makes for a really, really good movie.
A Spike Lee joint with all the familiar trade marks, visuals, and a stellar cast. Everyone brings the A-game, especially Ed Norton who is great as a busted drug dealer, who has just one day to settle the things in his life before he goes to jail, essentially ending his old life.
Jakob Elinsky: What do we say to him?
Frank Slaughtery: We say nothin'. The guy's going to hell for seven years, what are going do wish him luck?
His friends, girlfriends, and father are played by actors who know what they are doing. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, and Brian Cox are all great here.
Like in most Lee joints, the soundtrack sets a good tone for the movie, with a downbeat jazzy quality, mixed with some other music cues to go along with some of the themes, and a few good hip hop beats as well.
The cinematography is also admirable. With a number of scenes that use a variety of different film stock, along with some creative and subtle camera work.
Another part of the film that is handled well is the dealing with the aftermath of 9/11. A great job is done with the opening credits showing a certain setup done after the event as well as a scene later in the movie showing a visual aftermath of what had happened. Spike Lee is a New Yorker, and he does use this film to convey some of his feelings on the subject.
All that being said, the movie can also be very funny with a lot of good human comedy. The opening scene easily sets the tone for how enjoyable this movie is, while taking the other aspects very serious as well.
A very good character study about people dealing with themselves and their friends lives.
Uncle Nikolai: This is my advice to you: When you get there, figure it out who's who. Find the man nobody's protecting. A man without friends. And beat him until his eyes bleed. Let them think you are little bit crazy, but respectful, too. Respectful of the right men.
Despite all the good parts mentioned, there were a lot of boring scenes. The message in this film if quite clearly conveyed, but the storyline I felt was quite weak and there could have been a lot more they couldn've added. I will take one good quote from it though 'Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends"