Day 308-- Seraphim Falls (2006)

As a tautly-drawn and beautifully-filmed western thriller, Seraphim Falls works well. As a commentary piece on a variety of "big" topics, well--Seraphim Falls doesn't work as well.

Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson play two former American Civil War officers; Gideon (Brosnan) is a former Union captain that, after committing an atrocity, wants only to be left alone. Carver (Neeson) is a former Confederate colonel that wants to see justice done, and has vowed to hunt Gideon down.

The film begins as a tense chase between Gideon and Carver and his posse, and doesn't let up for the first hour. With very little dialogue it stretches from the foothills of the Rockies to the highlands of the midwest, the scenery acting as strong as a character as the two men. What makes it interesting (aside from the fact that two Scotsmen are playing Americans--and do a good job!) is that both Gideon and Carver are good men. Gideon may be guilty of the great wrong he committed, but wants only to be forgiven for it--still, that doesn't stop him from killing anyone that tries to hunt him. Carver, on the other hand, is essentially an honorable man that's letting his desire for justice morph into twisted revenge.

And all of this is good. But then something happens. Once the chase starts breaking into smaller vignettes--run-ins with wanted criminals, a wandering band of missionaries, a meandering confrontation at a railroad construction camp--the movie just flounders. It tries to make some points, and I'm honestly not sure about what. Gideon starts spouting bits of Scripture, Angelica Huston appears out of nowhere as a Satan figure, people start hiding inside of dead horses (well, that's actually a really shocking, impressive scene)...what? There are some interesting thoughts (even theological thoughts) that seem to be forming behind the scenes, but then plop onto the screen with little formation or finesse. The ending strives to show the power of forgiveness, and it does a fair job. But it's a muddled path getting there.

I liked the cinematography a LOT, and as a first-time director, David Von Ancken (who has worked with TV shows "Oz" and "the Shield") does an admirable job. But Von Ancken's script is pretty unbalanced, and having to watch a very American Xander Berkley play a foul-mouthed Irishman--especially juxtaposed with the Neeson/Brosnan thing--makes me forget the scenery in a bad way.

In the end, it mostly worked, but not enough for me to really enjoy it. It's worth watching, but maybe that's it.

Trailer here.


posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 7/10/2007 10:01:00 PM,


At 12:17 PM, Blogger Buddy Chamberlain said...

I'm surprised you didn't take the opportunity to point out that there have been very few good attempts on the American Western as of late. As the latest in a very long lineage of such films, how does this one fare?


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