Directed by creative filmmaker David Cronenberg and boasting another Academy Award nominated performance from William Hurt, A History of Violence was a film that surely needed to be seen.
A History of Violence is successful largely on the fact that David Cronenberg proves himself to be a brilliant filmmaker. While it could have been an overly familiar or cliché crime thriller, the fact is that it incorporated graphic themes in so well that it transcends my ability to actually ever call it anything along those lines. The film follows a consistently slow pace and allows its story to unravel as a means of revealing just who the characters truly are because when you really look into it, A History of Violence is a film about characters and not so much about the story. The story itself is good, but it is thin, and the importance rests on the way that all of the events affect the people involved and what it teaches them. In that sense, David Cronenberg's adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name is seriously strong thanks to the script by Josh Olson and the way that David Cronenberg gives such a powerful effort to it as director. David Cronenberg is the perfect director for A History of Violence because he is not scared to expose the violence of the story in whatever means possible, and in many of his previous films he has revealed a lot of dark subject matter. I mean, the man directed both Naked Lunch AND Crash, and now he takes a more narrative driven story and injects his own ability to empower the film through violent imagery and strong handling of the rough subject matter at hand. There could not have been a more perfect director for A History of Violence, and I have no doubts when I say that he deserved to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for crafting the film. It is sad that he did not earn such a nomination, but at least the film itself earned a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay because the screenplay in A History of Violence is deep and complex. It maintains the importance of the story from the original source material and all of the language which made it intelligent and meaningful, and it means that the story is able to develop naturally on its own throughout the slow yet perfect pacing and reveal the complex underside to violence in contemporary society.
There was one moment in the film when Ashton Holmes engaged in a fight scene with the character Bobby, and he did it with such tension which I was able to sympathise for that I was blown away by the tense power of it. It reminded me of the unforgettable intro from David Lynch's film Wild at Heart where Nicolas Cage violently beat a man to death. It was amazing, and in A History of Violence it brought back a lot of those emotions and left me shaken up. A History of Violence proved to be a much more complicated and entertaining examination of violence than I could have ever imagined. That one image will stay with me forever, as will many of the other moments of violence in the film. It wasn't sadistic, it was violently poetic. The visual style of A History of Violence is excellent because while it constantly maintains the cinematography of a strong drama which is atmospheric and intense, at the moments of violence it adopts a graphic novel style and makes use of clever cinematography techniques and perfectly timed editing which captures the mood of everything perfectly. A History of Violence is constantly a realistic looking film, and the moments when it adopts a graphic novel visual style are just exceptional as it is not afraid to use them to a realistic extend and maintains a perfect level of blood. A History of Violence is one of the most sophisticated and excellent examples of a graphic novel adaptation that I have ever seen, and so the experience is awesome.
And the most important thing about A History of Violence is the characters. There is a versatile list of deep and complicated characters lined up for A History of Violence, and they all pay their own relevance to the story with firm importance. But above all, they present a serious challenge to the cast in A History of Violence, and so the acting becomes the most essential quality to the film's success underneath David Cronenberg's Oscar worthy direction.
Viggo Mortensen gives a perfectly gritty leading performance in A History of Violence. He captures the grim and violent edge of the character Tom Stall. He has the stoicism and reluctance of a cowboy who is being dragged back into a world he wishes to have no involvement with. A History of Violence feels a bit like a western, and Viggo Mortensen manages to project the ideal archetype for the role. Viggo Mortenssn constantly makes a tense and unpredictable presence by conveying a lot of gripping emotional power to the audience in the part, and his leading performance ends up being great. Viggo Mortensen is a terrific leading actor in A History of Violence and works with director David Croneberg well enough to harness both of their potentials.
Maria Bello is also great in A History of Violence. While her character could have been a thin one, Maria Bello puts all of her acting skill into the role and gives a performance which is memorable for being really complicated and intense. She gives it her best effort and injects solid charisma into the role. Maria Bello is perfectly emotionally tense in A History of Violence and captures a lot of power in her part which makes her a strong supporting presence, and her chemistry with Viggo Mortensen is powerful because it has them expressing realistic dramatic charisma together. Maria Bello makes a powerful effort in A History of Violence.
William Hurt is also unforgettable. Although his screen time is very minimal, it is easy to see how his performance managed to score him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The instant he comes on he becomes an interesting presence and uses his tense line delivery to project a sense of both wisdom and darkness into the role which is befitting to the character very well. William Hurt manages to steal the screen the instant he enters it and holds the interests of viewers without problem from then on, and he turns in another entertaining performance and one of his most powerful in recent years.
Ed Harris provides a powerfully antagonistic performance in part, and Ashton Holmes brings a lot of key emotional intensity to his part.
So A History of Violence has a lot of interesting characters who are written with depth and acted out perfectly, and under the direction of David Cronenberg it proves to be both entertaining and very gritty.