25th Hour

"Extraordinary"

25th Hour Review


If you were to write a screenplay about a drug dealer who has just 24 hours of freedom left before he begins a seven-year prison sentence, what would you have him do? Repent? Fashion an elaborate escape? Have plenty of sex? That's probably why you haven't authored any Oscar-quality screenplays lately. Writer David Benioff, on the other hand, is likely to see a little golden statuette up close next year for his work on 25th Hour, a remarkable new film based on his novel of the same name.

Neither tearjerker nor suspenseful crime drama, 25th Hour is extraordinary in that it avoids all the clichés that such a premise so often invites. It is instead a carefully focused character study about a charismatic but condemned man who must come to grips with his sentence before morning. Edward Norton plays Montgomery Brogan, the felon in question. He spends his last free hours visiting his father (Brian Cox) and attending a going away party in his honor at a New York nightclub. In tow are his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) and his two childhood pals, Frank (Barry Pepper) and Jakob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) -- the latter of which is so perfectly cast that you can't help but chuckle the first time you see Hoffman give his usual dyspeptic sneer, signaling that he is disgusted not only with his high school English students but essentially the entire outcome of his life.

While there is a thin, action-based plot involving Monty's Russian suppliers who want to meet him at the party, the movie's real strength comes from the dialog between Monty's friends and family. It's quite clear to all of them that Monty's departure marks an end of an era for the group, although some are not so sure of exactly what that means for themselves. In various encounters throughout the 24 hours, these wonderfully complex characters share their fears and philosophies in a way that is surprisingly natural. At one point, Frank and Jakob look down on the ruins of the World Trade Center and Frank says, "You think you're still going to be friends? You think you'll kick back with a couple beers and reminisce? Forget it, Jake. It's all over after tonight." Rather than imply a direct connection between the Trade Center attacks and Frank's statement, this particular backdrop frames the scene in a sobering realism and helps expose these characters for who they really are: two New Yorkers feeling helpless in the face of change.

Of course, setups like these are as much the director's doing as they are the writer's, and Spike Lee has much to be proud of for his latest "joint," as he calls it. The flashback sequences, in particular, are well suited to the film. Rather than cut to one somewhat jarringly, or use some other contrived signal for indicating a memory, Lee ties the scenes to the current sequence of events so that you're never entirely sure you're watching a flashback until it's over. This is more seamless than you might think, and it saves Lee from having to provide a number of explanatory scenes at the beginning of the movie in order to set the premise. It also allows him to use a similar method for an especially luminous dream sequence at the end of the movie in which Monty's father imagines what life might be like if he failed to deliver Monty to prison (in other words, if he just kept driving west with his son at his side). While you know it's just a fantasy, Lee helps you try to convince yourself that it's not, and the result is a sort of fool's hopefulness that sums up the entire movie.

My only complaint about 25th Hour is that Monty's girlfriend exists in a vacuum. Although we know she was a student at the same prep school that Monty once attended, and that her mother doesn't like Monty's dog (as mentioned in a passing comment), the question of how a beautiful, athletic, and level-headed woman like herself ended up being with an older drug dealer for so long is never answered. In any case, this is a minor nit to pick, and the movie is still impressive without the additional explanation. Hopefully, the Academy will see it as such when it comes time to hand out trophies next year, for this is certainly one of the finest films of the year.

The DVD includes two commentary tracks (one from Lee, one from Benioff), 10 minutes of deleted scenes, and -- of course -- extra footage of ground zero.

24 hours of freedom and still he's gotta walk the dog.



25th Hour

Facts and Figures

Run time: 135 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th January 2003

Box Office USA: $12.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $13.1M

Budget: $15M

Distributed by: Touchstone Pictures

Production compaines: Buena Vista Pictures, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 129 Rotten: 36

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Monty Brogan, as Jacob Elinsky, as Frank Slaughtery, as Naturelle Riviera, as Mary D'Annuzio, as James Brogan, Tony Siragusa as Kostya Novotny, Levan Uchaneishvili as Uncle Nikolai, Misha Kuznetsov as Senka Valghobek, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. as Agent Flood, as Agent Cunningham, Patrice O'Neal as Khari, Al Palagonia as Salvatore Dominick, as Marcuse, as Daphne

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

On the Road Movie Review

On the Road Movie Review

Wolf Alice fans are likely to be rather disappointed by this hybrid documentary-drama about the...

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Borg/McEnroe Movie Review

Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a...

Advertisement
The Glass Castle Movie Review

The Glass Castle Movie Review

There are quite a few terrific moments in this true story, based on the memoir...

Home Again Movie Review

Home Again Movie Review

Reese Witherspoon is so likeable that she can carry even the most hackneyed of romantic...

Brimstone Movie Review

Brimstone Movie Review

An unnerving Western with a sharp female perspective, this film is a series of gruesome...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Movie Review

Two years ago, Kingsman: The Secret Service seemed to come out of nowhere, ruffling feathers...

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly...

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.