Monday, March 13, 2006

History of Violence

Arriving on DVD Tuesday is one of the best movies of last year.

Among the many impressive things about the film is that it's able to cram so much into less than two hours. It's based on a Graphic Novel, but credit has to go to Josh Olsen and director David Cronenberg for crafting such a well made movie.

The movie works on many different levels. It's a suspense thriller, it's a meditation on Violence, it's about chance, reform, regret and it's also a examination about family politics and identity.

Tom Stall is a seemingly mild mannered man who has a typical American family living in America's Heartland. But when a violent conflict occurs at his place of business. Tom is forced to react violently to save his employers and patrons. After he endures a brief brush with fame, a mysterious man (Ed Harris) arrives in town accusing Tom of being someone else. He claims that Tom is not who he claims to be, but in fact a man with a violent and questionable past.

The film boasts fine performances from it's stellar cast. Maria Bello, Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, and William Hurt all stand out with grounded exceptional work.

The film is directed by David Cronenberg and he, himself claims that it's his most commercial film to date. But if one is familiar with his work, what is commercial for him, may seem like Avant Garde for others.

There are lots of quirky Cronenberg touches in the film. The violent acts are shocking, unique and brutal. Images in the film seem to linger on the bloody aftermath slightly longer than most films. One moment sharing a second of blood squirting the next a close-up of a shattered nose. These extra images gives us that extra uncomfortable feeling of shock and disgust. The same can be said with the explicit sex scenes. Just when one feels the film will fade out, it shares with us that extra moment of shocking sexuality one usually wouldn't see in a standard Hollywood film. One almost gets the sense that it's a way for Cronenberg to put his stamp on the film, in case we've forgotten who's directed the film. But in reality the whole film has a strange surreal eerie feeling to it. The interactions of the townsfolk are almost too friendly. The supposed teenage son, seems slightly too old. The evil characters all have a quirky appearance and style that makes them stand out. Even the lead character is an unreliable protagonist. One second we feel for the character, the next we question his motives.

I guess less observant people can say the film is commercial. The overall subject matter is standard mystery/ suspense stuff. But what Cronenberg adds to the events are moments of humanity, and subtlety that elevate the film to something special.

Besides the aforementioned quirky traits, weaved into the film are moments of reflection and interaction that cut deeper than most films. Lots of it is done with looks, and atmosphere that can't be fully articulated in a review.

It's a fine accomplishment, and it's not surprising that the film was recognized by many critics as one of the top ten films of the year, as well as receiving Academy Award nominations for Screenplay and supporting actor.

Make sure to check out this riveting film.

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