Monday, January 24, 2011

#171. 25th Hour (2002)

DVD Synopsis: In 24 short hours Monty Brogan (Edward Norton, Primal Fear) goes to prison for seven long years. Once a king of Manhattan, Monty is about to say goodbye to the life he knew--a life that opened doors to New York's swankest clubs but also alienated him from the people closest to him. In his last day on the outside, Monty tries to reconnect with his father (Brian Cox, The Bourne Identity), and gets together with two old friends, Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Almost Famous) and Slaughtery (Barry Pepper, The Green Mile). And then there's his girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson, Men In Black II), who might (or might not) have been the one who tipped off the cops. Monty's not sure of much these days, but with time running out, there are choices to be made as he struggles to redeem himself in the 25th Hour.

Nighttime in the City that never sleeps.

The spotlights at Ground Zero slice their way into the sky, marking the area that was once occupied by the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

This is post-9/11 New York. This is Spike Lee's 25th Hour. More to the point, this is a remarkable film by an extraordinary talent; a movie - and a director - attempting to define the emotions of a wounded city, and doing so brilliantly.

Drug dealer Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) has just one day of freedom remaining before he begins a seven year prison sentence. He will spend this last evening in the company of his girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) and his closest childhood friends, Wall Street broker Frank Slaughtery (Barry Pepper) and high-school English teacher Jacob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Before the night is out, many deep-rooted feelings will make their way to the surface, and all four companions will come face-to-face with a reality that could change their friendship forever.

25th Hour was the first major motion picture set in New York City following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Was Spike Lee the right filmmaker to tackle such a project?

Hell yes.

Without a doubt.

Lee's cinematic resume is chock full of movies that pull no punches. Never a filmmaker to duck or weave when faced with a challenge, Lee's credentials speak for themselves: School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Summer of Sam. Throughout his career, Lee has generated his share of raw emotion, tension, and controversy. New York, battered and bullied, didn't need a flag-waving spectacular, or a vapid, feel-good extravaganza. This particular New York needed Spike Lee.

The horrific events of 9/11 are always present in 25th Hour, taking control of not just the setting, but the film's overall tone as well. When Jacob meets with Frank at the latter's apartment, which has a bird's-eye view of Ground Zero, we are quickly reminded of the time and place in which this story occurs. As the two sit in front of a window, through which we see the remains of the World Trade Center lit brightly below, they discuss the possible futures of their good friend, Monty. Frank tells Jacob that he believes this prison sentence marks the end of the Monty Brogan they know, that there's no coming back from the hell he's sure to encounter over these next seven years. The significance of this scene, in relation to the setting in which it occurs, is obvious. Like New York, Monty has been beaten down, and even his friends are counting him out.

Despite the film's desperate story, there are glimmers of hope that make their way through in 25th Hour. These characters, like the city they reside in, are moving towards a healing of their open wounds. It has been a bitter challenge, an emotional journey for all of them, and it isn't over yet. Not for Monty or Naturelle. Not for Jacob or Frank. Not for New York City.

But the healing has started. At least that's something.


Jeff said...

I agree, 25th Hour is a great movie. As you mention, it is one of the first movies to include 9/11 in the story, even though the movie is not about 9/11. And I do not think any movie since 25th Hour has better captured the mood and feeling in the city during that time period. Spike Lee made a beautiful movie, and the acting is outstanding too.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Jeff: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

25th Hour is definitely a beautiful, well-acted movie, with so many memorable scenes (The 'Mirror" sequence with Edward Norton, The entire time spent in the Club, etc). If I were putting together a top-10 list of films from the "Aughts", this one would definitely be on it.

And yes, even though the movie itself isn't about 9/11, those events are never far from the story at hand, setting a mood that reverberates throughout the entire film. As I said above, you couldn't have asked for a better filmmaker to tackle the 1st New York-set Post-9/11 film than Spike Lee.

Thanks again.

Dale Goodridge said...

This is a real powerhouse of an emotional, well cast movie.

As mentioned, the self-hating Mirror sequence is excellent. Directed by any other director there would have been issues with the racial 'slang' but in the context of the time in NY and the multicultural fear that gripped the US, it just seemed perfect.

This movie has real heart and is almost a play to me at times. The school scenes and the nightclub scene

The ending really hits me. I won't go into spoilers but I remember the first time I saw it in the cinema being pretty upset by it. Brian Cox is phenomenal in this movie.

The post 9-11 references and even a scene shot in a building overlooking Ground Zero are handle tastefully and respectfully.

I think more than anything this movie is about growing up. Taking responsibility for yourself and realising what you have. Friends. Family.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Dale: Thanks for the comment!

The mirror scene is definitely a hightlight, as is the ending sequence (that you mentioned) with Brian Cox narrating. And the shot overlooking Ground Zero really packs a punch.

Thanks for your take on the film, and for stopping by!

Tommy Ross said...

My favorite Spike Lee film...of many. As everyone said, just reeks of brilliance through and through, amazing performances by all, especially of note is Barry Pepper, an actor not mentioned often enough. The ending montage (no spoilers here) really had me going on first view but even with repeated views knowing how it ends it's still an amazing 15 minutes of cinema, almost like a movie of it's own tacked on to the end, if you haven't seen this film, don't miss it!!

gadphly said...

I regard this film as one of the most important American films of the 21st century as it transcends the politics to enter the human complexity of justice and identity. The mirror scene is one of Edward Norton's finest cinematic moments and touches slices close to the bone of humanity exposing bigotry as fear and unresolved anger.

Thanks for your blog

Mike Scallan