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'I tattooed 'survive' on my hand the night before I went away to
prison. And I did. We do what we have to do to survive.'
I don't think I can remember a film that has put me more on an emotive level with the main character as this film has. Edward Norton plays Monty Brogan he's not the nicest of people by anyone's standards and certainly no one you should feel sorry for. But having said that, I have never felt so sorry for the bad guy as I did watching this film. We watch the anguish of Monty during his last 24 hours on the 'outside' before he must go to prison for seven years, knowing completely what is in store for him on the 'inside'.
Set in post 9/11 New York City, we are constantly reminded of humanity and the need to bond together and to make the most of the little time we have; as do Monty's friends, including Jacob Elinsky (Hoffman), a confused and self-tortured school teacher who has strong feelings for one of the students in his class, Mary (Paquin of X-Men and The Piano fame). Although not about to die, Monty's world is about to turn severely bad, and there's nothing he can do about it. Norton's performance made me feel nervous and quite scared on his behalf, almost to the point of feeling nauseous. It made me want to forgive him, forget about his crimes and let him go (he seemed sorry for what he did he was no longer a drug dealer he was trying to make an effort). His performance worked. He had successfully transformed the criminal figure into your best mate and buddy, perhaps even yourself, and you genuinely feel sorry for him.
Director Spike Lee's films usually deal with African-American themes, so it came as a surprise to me to find that this film was something very different proving that Lee's talent extends across multiple genres and styles.
I highly recommend 25th Hour, not just for the brilliant story, but for the emphatic feelings the film imparts on the viewer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
25th Hour is a movie that I just came across one day and decided to
rent it, I noticed that it had Edward Norton in it and figured that I
would just give it a shot. I absolutely fell in love with Edward Norton
when I saw American History X, he immediately became one of my favorite
actors. I couldn't believe how much I fell in love with this movie,
it's honestly one of my new favorite movies, it's intelligent, intense,
and greatly written. Edward Norton pulls off an incredible performance
and truth be told I couldn't believe he didn't get a nomination at
least for this movie, I don't know 25th Hour just didn't get enough
notice, but this is a great movie and a very moving story.
Monty Brogan is walking the streets of New York with Doyle his dog. He goes to his old school where he meets up with his teacher friend Jacob Elinsky and discusses a get-together at a local club planned later that evening. Elinksy then calls Frank Slaughtery who is working as a Wall Street trader. Brogan then goes home to his girlfriend Naturelle and they discuss the fact that this is his last night before prison. Brogan has been busted for being a drug dealer, and he is looking at seven years in Otisville prison. Brogan visits his father James at his Irish pub, and his father blames himself for Monty getting into the position he's in. Brogan and his father then discuss whether it was Naturelle who tipped off the police about him. The group later meets at the club, Jacob runs into one of his students, Mary who we see before complaining to Jacob about the grade of one of her papers. She goes with them into the club. Frank and Naturelle also discuss how Monty got to this position, but Frank accuses her of not doing anything because she got used to a fancy life. Monty and his partner Kostya then go to speak to a group of Russian mobsters, run by Uncle Nikolai. Nikolai gives Monty some tips on how to survive in prison. Then it is revealed who really was the traitor that tipped the police about Monty.
25th Hour is also the movie that introduced me to Rosario Dawson and I have to tell you that I fell for this girl immediately, she's a great leading actress who has a strong presence on the screen. In fact the entire cast is something to admire in this movie: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Anna Paquin and Barry Pepper. Then we have this incredibly intense scene that is one of my favorite in movie history, when Edward Norton is in the bathroom and goes off blaming everyone else for his problems then finally breaks down and just says "F you, you had it all and you screwed it up", that scene went from funny to intense to just plan sad. This was also the fist movie that also brought up the pain and aftermath in New York after 9/11, the opening scene was in fact showing the lights that represented where the towers once stood and you really felt the pain and emptiness of New York. Honestly I would say this is Spike Lee's best film, it's not bitter or over the top and made this film perfectly. If you have the opportunity to see this movie, I highly recommend that you take it, it's such a terrific story and is one of the most effective of 2002.
I read the novel 'The 25th Hour' before I even knew it was going to be
adapted into a movie and I absolutely loved it. I thought it was one of
the best books written in the last ten years. Being a huge fan of Spike
Lee and Edward Norton, I was extremely excited when I found they were
making it into a film.
However I will admit I was a bit skeptical to whether Spike Lee could pull the film off, but when I saw the trailer I had a new found faith in it and I'm sorry to of doubted him. I saw the film yesterday and was just amazed. It's nearly flawless and is almost exactly like the novel which was written by David Benioff (who also wrote the screenplay).
The characters in the film are great. You got Monty Brogan (Norton) who's looking at seven years for drug dealing charges. It's his last day of freedom and he's just trying to tie up any loose ends before he goes. Then you got his two friends, Frank Slaughtery (Barry Pepper) and Jakob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who each have to deal with the fact that their best friend is going away for seven years, but also have their own demons to deal with. You also have his girlfriend, Naturelle Rivera (Rosario Dawson) who must deal with it as well and must also deal with the fact that she's suspect on who could have sold Monty out to the DEA. And finally you have James Brogan (Brian Cox), Monty's father. He's a hard working guy who obviously wished that things didn't turn out the way they did. One last night for Monty to set things straight and also make decisions.
The film sticks almost exactly to the novel, but there are slight differences. Since the novel was written in 2000 and the movie was filmed during 2002, Spike Lee and David Benioff included the mentioning of the attacks on New York and the aftermath, which I applaud Lee for. He didn't cop out and try to ignore it like others. It was necessary to capture the emotion of what New Yorkers are facing and among that, what the characters have to face with Monty going to prison. There are also slight differences and cut outs from the book to make the film flow easier, but I was disappointed with only one thing that the film didn't include. In the novel, Monty constantly thinks of how he always wanted to be a fireman. While firemen references and his father was a fireman are all mentioned in the film, it didn't really tackle Monty's regret of never becoming a fireman, like it did in the book. But the film makes up for that one thing by being terrific all around.
There are some stellar performances here. Edward Norton is always great in everything he plays, but in this film he is just excellent. The 'F**k You' scene he has when he's staring in the mirror is just excellent and I hope he gets an Oscar nomination for this role (he was robbed from one for American History X). Barry Pepper is in his greatest performance yet as the tough guy stockbroker. Philip Seymour Hoffman was great as Jakob, the high school teacher. Dealing with his attraction to his student, Mary (Anna Paquin). Rosario Dawson really made me feel for her and it was great to see more of her in a film. Brian Cox doesn't have a huge role, but he's great as Monty's father. I would also like to give praise to Tony Siragusa for his performance as Kostya. He was dead on with the accent.
So without going on any further, I just have to say that '25th Hour' was really great and is now one of my favorite films of all time.
SCORE: 9 out of 10 (excellent)
For myself, watching 25th Hour was sort-of like taking a palm reading.
Noticing one line, representative of a life-path, stretches out long
and far, while another line branches off and stops short in the middle
of your palm. You question which life path will you take, and which are
you currently on now. Are you one the short one or the long one? You
question the various choices and decisions that you made in the past,
and which life-line have those choices and decisions ultimately lead
you down. In a round-about way, the three characters in Spike Lee's
25th Hour are struggling with these same kind of questions. Based on a
novel by David Benioff, the film is essentially three people struggling
with the choices that they have made in their past, and the choices
they are to make in the future -- and which path will it ultimately
lead them down.
Edward Norton stars as Monty Brogan, a man whose life decision, becoming a drug dealer, has left him facing a seven year prison term, "...with 84 days off with good behaviour." It's the morning before, and Monty has twenty-five hours left to examine his life, bond with his closest friends, say goodbye to family, find a home for his dog, and figure out a way to survive in the joint. At one point, Monty's friend refers to his incarceration, as "...going to hell and never coming back," and the audience gets the feeling that it's not just a coy metaphor. If Monty does survive his "time", he will most assuredly not be the person they once knew when he gets out.
Even though he has grown distant from them over the years, Monty chooses to spend his remaining hours with his closest friends from childhood, Jacob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Frank Slaughtery (Barry Pepper). Socially and economically, these are two of the most dissimilar people one is likely to see spending time together in a film. Their only real connection is the deeply entrenched devotion they feel to their friend. Jacob is a nerdy English teacher, whose gift for the language, has done little for his social skills. His self-doubt and shame for being born wealthy has left him single, lonely and in a thankless job. He desperately yearns for one of his students, a beautiful and precocious seventeen year old, Mary D'Annunzio (Anna Paquin), but is afraid to act on it, fearful that such a decision will lead to him being fired from his job, or even worse, arrested. Frank, on the other hand, is on the opposite end of the character spectrum, he's a good-looking, rich Wall Street trader, who, unlike, his nebbish friend, has never had a problem with the ladies. Also unlike Jacob, Frank is much more forthright in his feelings about life, and his friend's impending incarceration, "He profited from other's misery and he deserves what he gets," he tells Jacob. Norton's character also has a girlfriend, Naturelle, played by Rosario Dawson, whom he believes might have been the one who sold him out to the police. There's also his father, played by Brian Cox, a retired fireman who owns a bar on Staten Island which caters primarily to fire fighters. Each of these people, in their own way, blames them self for what is happening to Monty.
The story propels forward when the three childhood friends gather in a nightclub, with Jacob's student, Mary, and Monty's girlfriend, Naturelle, tagging along. It is what happens in this club, on this night, that provides the core of the movie. The accusations that are made, the favor that is asked, the choices that are acted upon, and the truth that is revealed, will stay with these characters long after the 25th hour has widdled and gone away. Will these friends be willing to enact Doyle's Law, in a figurative sense, and save Monty Brogan, the symbolic beaten dog?
25th Hour is also memorable for grappling openly with the aftermath of September 11th. Lee skillfully immerses it into the subtext of the story. Referenced in pictures of fire fighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, which adorn the walls of the local sports bar and the uptown offices of the traders; to the mention of Bin Laden in a particularly biting commentary by Monty; to Frank Slaughtery's defiant refusal to move from his apartment, which sits overlooking the ruins of the Twin Towers. Director Spike Lee, never known for being subtle, thrusts these images, and his obvious anger about it, into the viewers lap and compels them to deal with it. Also memorable is the venomous diatribe by Norton into a bathroom mirror, where he verbally attacks every group in New York regardless of ethnicity, sexual preference or socioeconomic standing. Not even the church or JC himself, is safe from his tirade, which ends when Monty realizes the only person he has to blame for his predicament, is the one staring back at him in the mirror.
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.
Having seen Spike Lee's "25th Hour", I must say I was pleased. Lee's plot is both involving and heartfelt, showing the essence of reality. His script is fresh, yet somewhat slow in spots. His characters shine, however, in a truly believeable tale of consequence. Edward Norton, in another masterful performance, shows an almost frightening level of genuine human emotion as the protagonist Montgomery Brogan. The supporting cast consisting of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, and veteran Brian Cox provide a solid foundation that allows Lee's story to flow freely. While most would consider this tale a literal one, take note: It is quite apparent, through subtlety and the rather obvious "restroom mirror scene" that Spike Lee has a message he wants to get across. What I think makes "25th Hour" so appealing on a theoretical level is the fact that his message is surprisingly open-ended; allowing the individual viewer to decide what he or she wants to retain from the film. This is a genuine film experience; a haunting dose of reality.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wow, what a great movie. That's the first thing that passed through my
when the credits started rolling. This is the story of a man's last day of
freedom before starting a 7-year prison sentence. Funny, how they almost
never (if ever) use the words "prison" or "jail".
Edward Norton is great as Monty, and so is the inimitable Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays one of his best friends. I always enjoy watching both these actors. Hoffman plays a prep-school English teacher who has the hots for one of his students. They run into each other at a nightclub where a big party is thrown for Monty on his last night of freedom. She's not innocent but she is naive. They have an intense moment together at the club.
The movie is not really about prison or even what Monty's crime was. It's about all the things Monty has to do to wrap up his life before "going away". It's about the things people do to get what they want. It's about the realities of "going away" and the difficult emotions of all those involved. There's a brilliant scene where Monty's deepest hate and rage surface, that is very reminiscent of a scene in another great Spike Lee Joint, Do the Right Thing. He basically says F everybody, and then at the end of the scene, F himself. He has nobody else to blame for anything. He alone has ruined his life.
This movie made me think about what I would do if I were in his position. How would your parents react if you were going to prison? How would you say bye to your mom or dad? How about your spouse? And your closest friend? What about your dog?
It is a thoughtful film that is not about one particular thing. It does not try to get in your face with a single message, but has many messages.
This is definitely Spike Lee at the top of his game! `25th Hour' is a
purely character-driven drama filled with engaging, complex characters and
sharp dialogue. I like how Spike allowed the scenes to play out, without
being too concerned about dampening the pacing. I'm sure some will complain
(and this probably explains why it wasn't a big success) that the film is
boring and slow-moving. If they do, that's probably because audiences are
so used to watching movies with a million cuts in one scene, and more time
emphasized on action and sex scenes than character development. The
characters were so well-developed that I felt a deep connection with each of
them. It's rare nowadays that I really get sucked into a film, and this was
one of those rare cases. It might also have to do with the fact that I'm
familiar with many of these types of characters in real life. You have the
Barry Pepper character, who's this smooth-talking playboy who ends sleeping
with a ton of women, despite the fact that he's harsh and not very likable.
And there's the Philip Seymour Hoffman character, who's a lonely,
average-looking guy, who's alienated from society because he doesn't look
like an Adonis. It's a harsh reality that handsome guys with nice bodies
get away with being complete jerks and still maintain an active dating life,
while average-looking guys can have great personalities and women will be
repulsed by them, but it is indeed a reality. Sure, it isn't right for
Hoffman to be lusting after one of his underage students, but I'm sure if he
were ten times better looking, people wouldn't be as disgusted-because God
knows that teachers sleeping with their students is sweeping the globe like
The approach to these character interaction scenes is almost documentary-like, which adds to the film's engaging qualities. I love the scene between Pepper and Hoffman, where they chat about dating and Pepper describes his buddy as being part of the 62nd percentile, in the dating world. Sometimes it doesn't work when you deviate from the main characters to focus on the supporting characters, but in this film it did, being that they're very essential in Monty's life and it's helpful to allow the audience to know them inside and out.
The acting is terrific. Edward Norton is always brilliant. But the supporting cast is just as strong. Barry Pepper is a wonderful actor as well, and it's interesting to find out that he's from Vancouver, yet he convincingly inhabits the character of a true New Yorker. Brian Cox is only in the film for about 20 or 30 minutes, but his appearances are very memorable, and he is absolutely magnificent. After seeing him in this movie, I must add him to my list of favorite underrated actors. It's ironic that he shows up in practically every other film, yet he never gets the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, one day he will. Even Tony Siragusa impressed me. I'm not hugely familiar with him, but I saw him make a guest appearance once on `The Tonight Show,' and he seems like a cool guy with a good sense of humor, but I wasn't sure how he'd pan out in a serious dramatic role. Well, he is great, and pulls off the Ukrainian accent with hardly a hitch. I also liked how his character would mess up on his English every once in a while, instead of these foreign characters in movies who speak perfect English, only with an accent. I'm always proud to see Philip Seymour Hoffman, who never fails to impress. One reason I'm so drawn to him is because-like me-he's an average-looking guy, yet he receives decent roles and doesn't get typed as the `fat slob' like most actors in his weight range. So I think of him as an inspiration to all overweight aspiring actors. I once read a review for `Magnolia' in which someone bashed him for being so ugly. Of course, this person didn't mention anything about his acting, but that just proves how superficial of a society we live in today. Many audiences are so used to seeing actors and actresses with near-perfect faces and near-perfect bodies that they can't stand to see actors who look like `normal people.' How often do you walk outside and see people who look like Tom Cruise and Gwyneth Paltrow? Even these so-called reality shows try to include the most beautiful people possible. So people get hypnotized into thinking that's reality. I'm a heterosexual man, so naturally I'm open about enjoying the sights of beautiful actresses, but that's not going to impact how I feel about their acting abilities. And the sight of beautiful women alone surely doesn't make a film good (i.e.: `Charlie Angels'). Speaking of beautiful women, wrapping up this talented cast are Anna Paiquin and Rosario Dawson. Paiquin is cute and effective in her role, though technically it's similar to the ones she played in `HurlyBurly' and `It's the Rage.' I just hope she doesn't get typecast as the teenage slut who loves sleeping with older men. But she's a fine actress, and despite these similarities, she takes different approaches to each of her characters. Rosario Dawson just gets hotter and hotter by the movie. When I saw that trailer shot where she's dancing in the club in that silver dress, I couldn't help but think to myself, `I'd give my left leg to marry that girl.' Well, I'm glad to see that she receives good roles that compliment her acting abilities. She really has a commanding screen presence, outside of her outstanding beauty.
I only have two minor criticisms about the film. One is the unnecessary `F.U. sequence' where Norton goes on a blue streak about his hatred for the people of NYC and the world in general. I'm sure many will find deep meaning in that sequence, but I felt it was out of place and simply an opportunity to remind people that this is a Spike Lee joint-since it's identical to the race-bashing montage in `Do the Right Thing.' Spike mentioned in the commentary that the scene was in the screenplay, and adapted from the original novel, but I'm sure he thought of it as a perfect opportunity to insert one of his directorial trademarks. My other criticism is the use of flashbacks. Nowadays, some directors feel that dissolving into flashbacks and showing subtitles that read things like `Three years earlier' is passe, but the audience needs some sort of clue that we're going back in time. In the scene where Dawson and her friend are in the playground, and Norton first meets her, is obviously a flashback since Dawson is wearing a Catholic private school uniform. But there are other scenes that I didn't realize were flashbacks until I watched the movie with Spike's commentary. But even without knowing those scenes were flashbacks, I didn't feel thrown off, so that's always a good sign.
Besides the `F.U. sequence,' there were other Spike trademarks, which I felt worked out well, like his famous dolly shot. The movie is long, but not overlong. As I said, this is Spike at the top of his game. I'm personally a fan of most of his work, even the awfully bashed `Summer of Sam.' Other fans should also be impressed. Hell, even if you're not a Spike Lee fan, you should appreciate this film! It's a smartly written, well-acted, character-driven drama that doesn't come along too often.
My score: 9 (out of 10)
STAR RATING:*****Unmissable****Very Good***Okay**You Could Go Out For A Meal
Instead*Avoid At All Costs
Spike Lee is a truly revolutionary director in terms of the presentation of his films and the motivations behind his stories.Though the genre and content of their stories differ fairly enormously,he is in fact a lot like a latter day Alfred Hitchcock in terms of how he presents his films,like the characters involved and the inspiration behind the premise.
The premise here is a deeply original,inspiring and intriguing one,concerning Marty (Edward Norton) a drug dealer who is about to go to prison for seven years.The film follows him around on his last day of freedom,and,rather than waste too much time on a hindering,unnecessary sub-plot concerning his attempts to find the person who ratted him out,wisely opts to be an engaging character study of a man who,though able to acknowledge he knew full well what he was doing and the criminal life he was getting himself involved in,is still able to question the possible circumstances and immoralities that may have helped his descent into crime.
The two main people who help organise his last free night are his childhood buddies Frank (Barry Pepper) a sleazy stockbroker who plays with people's investments and Jakob (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) a repressed drama teacher,who,throughout the course of the film,gives in to a lustful temptation toward a feisty student of his named Mary (Anna Paquin).Though Marty is the one facing the lengthy jail sentence,the moral dilemma the film constantly raises is whether he is actually any more of a criminal than his two best mates,who are really as equally manipulative and sly as he is.The film brilliantly contrieves to present these characters to the audience,and have them develop their own opinion on what their fates should be.
The driving point of the film however,is condemnation.At the beginning,we see Marty reveal his sensitive side to the audience by rescuing a stray dog who appears to have been discarded by it's owner who,though vicious and nasty toward him,he still finds it in his heart to adopt and love,despite the protestations of his large friend.But then the opening credits ensue,and it's a dark,droning opening theme and that prsents the tone of the movie.Then,straight afterwards,we're shown Marty's not-so-sensitive side,as he trys to brush off a man he turned into a drug addict.Lee intelligently and absorbingly weighs out Marty's good points and bad points,and shows that,despite dealing in a criminal profession,he's not all bad and can be quite nice at times.Yet we're also shown a man who wasted all his potential.If he'd tried a little harder,he could've been a doctor or a chef,his father (Brian Cox) points out to him.We also see that he was once a very gifted basketball player,and could possibly have pursued that further,but alas,didn't.He also tries to blame everyone and everything else for his current predicament,until finally accepting that he was in control of his own destiny and must now pay the price.At the end,he is given the choice:accept he did wrong,pay his debt and go and serve his time in jail,or turn and run.The decision he makes will determine the audience's final impression of him.
It does drag a little towards the end,but generally speaking,Spike Lee is a master of his craft and this is a strong contender for the first great film of 2003.****
Honestly it's the best movie I've seen in my 25 years. I've seen it a
dozen times now, and I love it more every time. The plot is perfect,
the acting is perfect, the cinematography is perfect. The ending
segment with Monty and his father is about the most powerful I've ever
So many unforgettable scenes in the movie:
- Frank & Monty at the club the last night
- The "make me ugly" scene
- Monty and his dad in the car
If you haven't seen it, go get it right now. You can't miss this one.
This great picture by the greatly discussed Spike Lee is one of a kind.
What really makes this shine through the constant rubble being made by
either incompetent directors or inexperienced ones is first of all, the
incredible acting and for that you need great characters that are well
thought-out and second comes the frighteningly real and tragic story.
Which Lee handles with utmost care and outstanding precision.
Lee's trademarks are present here and the cinematography suits the feel of the movie very well. The final product feels very polished, but true to the story and it is those small things that some of us notice, those details that separate a veteran from a novice. There are some weak points, but they are only minor.
The acting here is top notch. Norton convinces once again and makes for a great heartfelt performance and Hoffman is equally impressive. However, I was completely blown away by Pepper. Barry Pepper. He 'was' continuously Frank and very consistent in his acting. The scene where he breaks down and Norton thanks him in a way for what he has done is one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen. It felt so authentic.
Furthermore, I can keep writing about how great this movie is or how good the acting, but eventually you have to decide for yourself. I can only recommend it.
So, I say to you, if you can, see this movie as soon as possible.
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