25th HOUR

Directed by Spike Lee. USA. 2003.

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25th Hour is Spike Lee’s 17th theatrical film release in 16 years. Set under the backdrop of a city in mourning Lee’s poignant drama is the first Hollywood film to tackle post 9/11 angst. This film is a tale of moral choice and redemption that follows Monty Brogan, played by Edward Norton, through his last 24 hours before serving a seven year jail sentence. In this time through meeting his girlfriend, two of his oldest friends and his father we experience a tale about loss and regret and the consequences of having taken things for granted. Like the city the characters are struggling with past demons, incomprehensible wounds and the fate of an unknown tomorrow. In the case of Monty Brogan it’s a sentence of regret for his inaction in the past and the brutalities of a jail that waits. This subdued New York resonates through his friends, Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Francis (Barry Pepper) and their coming to terms with the loss of a friend, particularly as they discuss their friend’s fate overlooking Ground Zero.

As with most Spike Lee films it is an examination of moral choice and its affect upon the society it burdens. Should Monty go to jail and do right by the law and society? Or should he avoid the consequences of prison and its injustices and ‘Do The Right Thing’ by himself as he takes awareness to his mistakes and regrets and the pain he inflicted upon those he loves? It is a tale of realization and redemption and how the choices we’ve made in the past reflect the road we take now.

Stylistically Spike Lee is one of the most original and distinctive American filmmakers in the last 20 years. From She’s Gotta Have It to Summer of Sam Lee has consistently marked his films with a clear, direct and honest approach to storytelling. In doing so his films become an accurate zeitgeist engaging the audience in a world it understands with familiarity and experience. This is no exception. In the 25th Hour Lee captures the subdued mood of a man and city trying to confront the past without focusing on the latter too much so that Monty’s regret is overshadowed.

Edward Norton is excellent. Watching him is like watching 9/11. He is compelling to the point of true empathy. Delivering a performance that convinces the audience both to Monty’s past as a hardened drug dealer and his recent descent into regret and worry. However, its just a shame that for every 25th Hour, Fight Club and American History X there’s the contractually obligatory commercial project (The Italian Job, Red Dragon). Films, that by their essence, fail to use the full capabilities of Norton, one of the best actor’s today.

The supporting casts are also excellent. Hoffman successfully adding another dimension to the nerdish bachelor, a role all too familiar in his career, whilst Brian Cox playing the father who suffers from a self-reproach to his son’s conviction and way of life, is as always outstanding.

This is an awesome experience in filmmaking and an absolute joy to watch. Lee once again delivering a morality tale with repercussions for audience after thought cementing himself firmer as the true raconteur of our time.

Raffi Asadi
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Material Copyright © 2003 Nigel Watson