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It's not hard to put together a monster film. You throw one insane guy
together with a hero, and add a car chase. The Ledge is nothing like
this, and that's why it's so impressive.
The main struggle is between a Christian with extreme beliefs, and an Atheist who just wants out. Uniquely, it's the only film I can think of that has an openly atheist hero and an A-list cast. And ironically, the few people who have complained about this show exactly what the film is trying to portray: that some people are so intolerant of atheism that even one movie among the thousands in history is too much for them.
To me, the star of this film is Patrick Wilson, who plays the fundamentalist. Instead of becoming a monster, his portrayal links completely normal passions like love and protection and revenge that we can all identify with, but then takes it to the natural conclusion, egged on by his convictions that anything he decides to do must be blessed.
Thus the central thesis of the film -- that belief can go too far -- is played out on a small stage. This is a drama of just 6 people, but the intricate explosions between them pull at the heartstrings far more effectively than a car chase in an action film would. We hear so much about the dangers of religion in big stories like 9-11, gay rights, and abortion rights. Here is a film about the dangerous of religion in the everyday, the dramas so commonplace that everyone who watches can find something in their own lives to compare it with.
Sure, I've never walked out onto The Ledge. But something about the masterful writing and acting in this film creates an authenticity that is undeniable.
Go ahead. Rant against atheism. Show us how intolerant you are. Violent words and deeds are the response of someone backed into a corner, desperate not to lose it all, just like "Joe" is in this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've just seen this film tonight at the Sundance Film Festival. It was
the first film on my Sundance list because I had a chance to meet Chris
Gorham at another screening a few months ago, and he's been talking
I was concerned, however, as I started seeing very mixed reviews. As I walked in I was prepared to be bored, preached at, and left with a very predictable life-affirming message. Boy, was I ever wrong.
Let's start with the talent. Gavin, Charlie Hunnam looking like a cross between a young Ryan O'Neal and the late Heath Ledger (complete with fake American accent), eats up most of the screen time, and he's neither hero (a man who falls in love) nor villain (a man who destroys a marriage). That's a sign of a complex character, because real life is seldom black or white. You like him enough, though, not to want him to die. Terrence Howard is predictably good though his character is a little flat compared to the others, Liv Tyler -- who I've never been a fan of before -- turned in a fantastic multi-dimensional performance. Christopher Gorham, as Gavin's roommate, makes a fine showing as well, despite there being very little of it. (Any more of Chris's story would have seemed a forced, unnecessary subplot.) The standout performance, I thought, came from Patrick Wilson as Tyler's Christian fundamentalist husband. For the first half hour I was distracted by the fact that he's a Will Arnett doppelganger, but by the end of the movie he's become frighteningly snakelike.
You expect the Christian extremist to be the bad guy, the evil one. But that's not what happens. Of course he's the bad guy, and yes, he's got views that many people won't agree with, but, through the good writing and his performance, I admired his passion, and even though I didn't agree with his rigid views, I felt his incredible pain as he discovers his wife's infidelity. Some of the folks I was with considered his character over the top, and it is definitely extreme complete with profuse sweating, but you don't really know what direction he's going to turn next, and that's an interesting villain. By the end of the movie my sympathy for him was gone, but I like the fact that he had enough layers that I could feel his pain and hate him at the same time.
The movie certainly made me think, there's a lot of religious and philosophical discussion, but more impact was made by all the pure emotion going on. In case you might think it too cerebral, there was plenty of tension along the way. Like every other scene in the movie, as Gavin stands on the ledge you have no idea which way it might go. In the end, Gavin makes a choice, one life over another, that he faced years before, and this time he makes the "right" choice, at least in his heart. It is not a story about an atheist versus a Christian, anymore than it is really a story about a guy standing on a ledge. And let's not leave out some of the lovely scenes between Tyler & Hunnam as their relationship grows. The film, told mostly in flashback, is quite the emotional roller coaster until it rolls clean off the tracks.
I'm looking forward to seeing it play on IFC so I can appreciate the nuances a little more without being too concerned about the outcome. Matthew Chapman definitely has a lot to say (as he did at the post-film Q&A), and I'm eager to see his next move.
First off I am an atheist, so I was anxiously awaiting this. I have
actually been experiencing old friends and family coming to me asking
what happened to make me lose my faith. Nothing I say over and over
then launch in to explaining everything again. This movie was
phenomenal and now I can say "hey you know what, go watch the ledge"
I thought all the characters seemed believable, both in their lines and beliefs. The storytelling bounces around a bit which I love, it allows you to make assumptions and try to figure everything out before its revealed.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Ledge, and I plan on buying it on DVD so I can lend it to people. I can only hope that this does alright and more atheist protagonists are created.
I saw a preview of The Ledge two months ago and instantly thought it is the beginning of a whole new genre of film that gets away from the cliché world of most films. It explores nuances of life, ethics, love and religion that are not easily classified. While it is a thriller, it is also much more. If you are not thinking about this movie for days or weeks after, you probably weren't watching. I challenge you to put yourself into each of the characters and recognize how powerful world views can influence decisions and behavior. Of all the characters, I thought the policeman and his life dilemma was most compelling. It seems to tie the whole movie together. I think the final scene of the movie was a little weak and may have actually detracted from the overall effect. I would have done the ending a little different but it is a small quibble over a great viewing experience but that is why it gets a 9 instead of a full 10. The fact that I am writing this review two months after seeing the preview is testament to the impact it can have.
I think the harsh criticisms of the film are outright ridiculousalong
with the excessive accolades. From a basic film critique: The Ledge
definitely delivers on maintaining tension/suspense. I think the
subtleties here (e.g., Liv Tyler's anti-make-up "make-up") will cause
people to feel uncomfortable, but without knowing that it's all
There is a massive delusion among Christians that fundamentalism and religiously inspired bigotry only manifest in a small percentage of extremists. This just isn't true. If it was, I'd feel dramatically safer and more comfortable in public discussing atheism with a stranger!
The atmosphere is very realistic, and the uncomfortable (at times) dialog is accurate to the reality of proselytism in the guise of philosophical discussion. The movie even captures how many atheists feel when observing prayer, and this is very rare to see in the spot light.
I really wasn't convinced by any of the characters' back-stories. They seemed unnecessarily extreme in a movie that is driven by its subtleties. They really contrasted with the rest of the writing, and broke the illusion of realism. I also didn't find the acting convincing on this level. In particular: Given Shauna's history, she seemed to be unrealistically open and trusting towards Gavintheir interactions felt a bit contrived and very rushed.
Unfortunately the film doesn't explore its topics at much depth, while presenting more rudimentary/common arguments. However, this only added realism to the dialog for me. I feel it has more intellectually to offer symbolically than literally.
The Ledge displays a psychological perspective of an atheist through its atmosphere, and that alone makes it unique and worth seeing.
I have rarely seen such an understated, effective movie before. Parts
of the movie can be seen as completely predictable, but wait for
it...think about it. I walked out of this movie thinking I could take
it at face value and yet it nags me, makes me think. It demands
attention, and discussion.
I have a tear in my mind, I'm slightly outraged; no predictable film should have such an effect on me. And yet...
Viewers of the film may nitpick the details, but they must stop at the fringes to be concerned with the superficial-alities. The meat of the film lies in debate and action - what the characters do, not blowing things up kind of action. Are you willing to put action to your most devout beliefs?
Fine acting, a fine plot; I wholeheartedly recommend this film.
I just saw this movie tonight and really enjoyed it. The plot is
gripping, full of pathos, and well executed. I thought the acting was
excellent and the dialogue thought provoking. Charlie Hunnam and Liv
Tyler delivered outstanding performances. I felt like I've met all
these people in other guise in my life, and they were all very human.
Unlike most modern cinema, rather than skirting the big issues of philosophy and meaning this movie tackles the hard questions head on. It was very refreshing to see how these ideas interacted with the characters and their motivations. I really don't want to give it away. Go see it, make your own decision.
Recently, I posted a piece about Matthew Chapman, the great-grandson of
Charles Darwin, who has recently made a film with more than a hint of
Atheism at its core; The Ledge (http://tonyryan.org.uk/?p=530)
I finally managed to watch this, and must say that even if I wasn't an atheist I would definitely have enjoyed it. It's a tightly paced thriller, with excellent performances from all involved, especially Patrick Wilson and Charlie Hunnam. A small cast, and a low budget do not a cheap film make, and with these restrictions Chapman has done an excellent job of making a movie with a message that is neither preachy nor boring.
I won't spoil the film by discussing the plot, but from the synopsis and trailer it's pretty obvious what the film is about. What makes it entertaining, rather than just the story, is the interaction between the characters and the way in which you are engaged with them as an outsider looking in.
If you're based in the UK, this film is hard to come by, but these instructions from the producer can help get the film seen by a wider international audience:
"the film is available internationally now, but BY REQUEST, so here's how to get theatres to request it! I just put up some instructions at http://ledgemovie.com/how_?to_help/ , and thank you for any help you can give!
It has been called the Brokeback Mountain for atheists, but the new
Matthew Chapman film, The Ledge is not a film about atheism at all. It
is a suspenseful story about life and death, love and loss.
Over all, I think The Ledge is a very entertaining mainstream movie with some great theological discussions mixed in. You don't have to be an atheist to enjoy this film any more than you have to be a Catholic to enjoy the movie, The Exorcist. But if you are an atheist, you might enjoy some of the discussions between Gavin and Joe a little more than most.
I loved the complexity of the characters and how I was able to identify with each one at one point or another in the film. I could even sympathize with Joe, who is at first not a likable character throughout much of the film. I loved the suspense and the great conversations between all the characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had seen some poor reviews of this, most being along the lines of
"too much religious mumbo-jumbo," or "too much to think about." So I
wasn't sure what to expect. But I have to say, I was really surprised
by this movie.
I love that format of story-telling with the climax at the start, and then having all the blanks filled in throughout. I thought that all the characters were very believable and they are introduced in ways that you can find yourself in their shoes almost immediately. Nobody was one-dimensional. I did not get a "of course the Fundamental Christian is the bad guy" vibe I had heard a lot about either. It seemed more to me to show the idea that even people considered well-grounded (by themselves and others) can be driven to extreme action when faced with the unexpected.
The only negative thing I have to say is that it felt sometimes like the main character's personality fell back on the "Atheists are just bitter people who are mad a God" shtick. Though alternately I did like the symbolism in his demise. That despite his Atheism, he was willing to put aside his ideas to protect and comfort those around him when they needed it. And at the end, he basically became a symbol of Jesus, sacrificing himself to save another and asking that those he leaves behind become better people. (though I'm probably reaching quite a bit to have found that conclusion, I admit)
Overall, I recommend this movie. It was thought-provoking, emotional and complex. Very nice.
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