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|The Brave One
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Neil Jordan
scr Roderick Taylor, Bruce A Taylor
with Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Nicky Katt, Naveen Andrews, Mary Steenburgen, Jane Adams, Zoe Kravitz, Ivo Velon, John Magaro, Larry Fessenden, James Biberi, Rafael Sardina
release US 14.Sep.07,
07/US Warner 2h02
Examining the evidence: Howard and Foster
With a smart script, sure-handed direction and strongly internalised performances, this film astutely blends a personal drama with a revenge thriller.
Erica (Foster) is a Manhattan radio host heading for marriage to her boyfriend (Andrews) when a horrific assault shatters their lives. She survives, but emerges shell-shocked, afraid to go out until she decides to buy a gun to defend herself. But the role of vigilante sits uneasily in her mind, even though the bad guys keep getting away. Meanwhile, she develops a strong friendship with the detective (Howard) on her case, who's also working with his partner (Katt) on a recent vigilante crime.
If anything, the story is a bit too tight, but it plays out effectively like a morality fable about the thin line between good and evil, or perhaps an allegory of much bigger events. The dialog is incisive and witty, and both Foster and Howard add layers of texture to their characters. Foster is absolutely electric in this role, with her steely eyes and tense frame, while Howard is softer and more openly inquisitive. Both are seriously struggling with what they should do in a world that suddenly doesn't feel safe anymore.
And the filmmaking is so strong that we are drawn straight into their struggle. Jordan avoids gimmicks for an elegant style that's provocative and revealing, and makes terrific use of Philippe Rousselot's gorgeous cinematography. As the story progresses, it gets genuinely wrenching, but never in a heavy-handed way because the acting keeps it grounded in recognisably real emotions. What Erica does is never the right thing, but we understand her pain, as well as her comfort at owning a gun.
In the hands of lesser actors or filmmakers, it's easy to imagine this as yet another simplistic blockbuster with clear-cut heroes and villains. But each of these people exist in the shadows. "I know you're the good guys," Erica says to a cop, "so how come it doesn't feel like that?" And deeper than that, the story's core question is how we can pull our lives back together after a major trauma. And right up to the surprising final scene, the answer is bold and scarily tough.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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