25th Hour - Atmospheric And Sublime Urban Drama

                                 What would a man do if he knew that he has less than a day to live? In the case of the protagonist of movie, '25th Hour' he isn't exactly headed towards death, but as a convicted drug dealer it's his last day of freedom. This 2002 movie expands like a meditation on New York and America in the aftermath of Sept. 2001. The last day and night of his freedom represents self-examination, redemption, regret, and remorse. 

                               Director Spike Lee, known for films like 'Do The Right Thing', 'Malcolm X', 'Clockers', has tried explain the ways the people of New York dealt positively with so horrendous an event. 25th hour also transforms Spike Lee's career into a collective achievement that is both stunningly powerful and delivers the right message. 

        Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) is a small time drug-dealer. He is convicted for his crimes and has 24 hours of freedom before being sent to a upstate prison for a stretch of seven years. During that last day, he tries to bind up as many loose ends in his life as he can. He hangs out with his two best friends: Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a insecure school teacher, and ardent Frank (Barry Pepper), a Wall street broker.

            Monty also meets his father (Brian Cox), a retired firefighter and now bar owner who lost friends in the tragedy of 9/11.  He catches up with his girlfriend, Riviera (Rosario Dawson), and wonders whether she has given him up to cops. And finally, the Russian mob is afraid that he will give them up. All sort of verities comes out on this fateful evening. Each person tries to place the blame on themselves for not interfering on Monty and his life style.  

                 Edward Norton as Monty is very convincing as a pusher. He is not a stereotypical drug-dealer. He looks smart, perceptive, kind, but implied that he is greedy. The way Norton balances his fear, introversion, and anger is what makes him a exceptional actor. His powerful, traumatic performance is not possible without the support of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper. Playing Jacob is like a cakewalk for Hoffman. In the movie, Jacob's student (Anna Paquin) tags along Monty and group at the night club, and her teasing of the perturbed Jacob -- almost forcing him to act on his heavily repressed lust -- is another of those painful Philip Seymour Hoffman moments.   

                    Barry Pepper as the hard-driven Wall street trader is one of those realistic character in the movie. He gives attention to statistics, such as who lives in the upper 62%-ile of men who get laid often. Frank also stares at his overlooking window to Ground Zero and declares,“ Osama could drop another one right next door and I still wouldn’t move.”  The character of Barry exemplifies the movie's (and its director's) philosophy of pride and defiance in the face of disaster. Brian Cox as Monty's caring father is perfect. 

                     This is a rare event where director Spike Lee has made a movie with a predominantly white cast. In 25th hour, he mostly emphasizes atmosphere plot. For a patient movie-viewer the deliberate pace has its payoff - you might begin to feel the desperation of Monty. Though the movie is subtle in its approach, Lee breaks the mold, in a magnificent set piece early in the movie. Monty goes into a restroom, and his reflection in the mirror launches into a violent denunciation against all the various peoples of New York: the blacks, the Italians, the Park Avenue rich, Korean grocers, Sikh cabdrivers, Pakistanis, and Russian mobsters. Through this scene, Lee shows that, when a man is sick of New York or any place, he's sick of the world and everything in it. 

                     The screenplay by David Benioff adapted from his own novel adds tranquil and a place of poetry. He conveys the alienation of a city and its people at once detached yet intimate. David also nails the love and resentment which characterize life-long friendships. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto gives us sprawling and heartfelt panoramas of the great city.

                   25th Hour is not a feel good or a happy movie experience, but there's no denying that it lingers in the mind long after you have finished watching it. The powerful and deftly handled, 25th hour is well worth your two hours of time. 



Lazy Pineapple said...

I had not heard of this movie till your review. I am a huge fan of Edward Norton and will definitely see this movie.

Lazy Pineapple

Raghav said...

Still to watch it but it's been on my must watch list for a whole now

Mithil said...

u are right, the patience pays off in the end. Not the best of Norton but still watchabble.

Arun Kumar said...

@Vinita, Thanks for the comment.

@Raghav, Don't miss the movie, and give your opinion once u have watched it.

@Mithil, Thanks for the comment. Not the best of Norton and a different movie from director Spike Lee.