Opening and closing in cinemas almost without leaving a trace, Seraphim Falls did nothing to help revive the western's big screen fortunes, but despite some problems it's an enthralling manhunt movie that deserved a lot more attention than it got. It doesn't waste time getting things moving - no sooner has Pierce Brosnan started a fire to warm himself in the snowbound mountain country than Liam Neeson and his private posse are shooting at him, triggering an initially near wordless man hunt that will lead its protagonists across some spectacular country to a final confrontation in a barren desert, the ghosts of the Civil War briefly invoked en route. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, opting for the kind of genre staples that haven't had much of an outing over the past few decades, and doing them surprisingly well and, thanks to John Toll's magnificent cinematography, with an incredible feel for its ever-changing landscape that surprisingly few Western directors since Anthony Mann have ever been able to exploit. It's gripping stuff, the pitstops along the way - remote farms, railroad camps, wagon trains - offering memorable vignettes for the likes of Tom Noonan, Shannon Zeller and Kevin J. O'Connor.
Unfortunately it takes an ill-advised excursion in spiritual allegorical territory in the finale, first with the appearance of Wes Studi's top-hatted Charon figure collecting his payment on the shores of a dead sea of sand and Anjelica Huston's diabolical peddler. The latter is not quite enough to derail the film but it does throw in an unwelcome wobble that the film really doesn't need, hammering home what the film has much more effectively left unsaid up until then. Even before that there is, unfortunately, one absurdly contrived moment when Neeson first gets Brosnan in his sights and allows him to escape with ridiculous ease because it's too early to end the picture, while Neeson's motivation and bitterness aren't hard to guess at long before the secret is revealed. Yet despite those flaws the film's more than good enough and entertaining enough to have deserved a wider release and more attention than it actually got, and it's nice to see Ed Lauter back on the big screen and hear Michael Wincott growling away as Neeson's hired guns. On this evidence, co-writer-director David Von Ancken might well be one to watch in the future
Despite the lack of extras this is one where Icon's Blu-ray has a big advantage over the UK DVD. The extras may be the same - just an audio commentary by Von Ancken, Brosnan and production designer Michael Hanan and a standard making of documentary - but someone screwed up and mastered the DVD in 1.85:1 while the same company's Blu-ray is in the correct 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, and this film uses the Scope format so well that it's well worth paying the extra to see it as it was intended.
on 15 September 2008
Although set in 19th century USA this isn't a typical Western in many ways but instead offers an extended chase/revenge thriller rather than the old standard tales of settlers, trains, 'injuns' and bankrobbing - though all of those do make appearances.
The film opens with a grizzled Brosnan sitting by a fire eating feshly roast rabbit on a snowy mountainside but the idyll is promptly shattered when he is shot at by an unseen assailant. Brosnan flees down the mountain and indeed spends most of the movie being pursued by an obsessive and determined Liam Neeson and his hired hands.
There is little dialogue for either lead actor to build a character around but none the less both protagonists are sharply drawn - more often by their deeds than words.
There are moments of brutal violence and a sustained sense of threat as prey and pursuer encounter each other along the way but this mood is squandered in the final act when the brutal reality of nature and the stories metaphorical undercurrent switch places.
It may be that this final act represents a drifting into madness or worse but it doesn't sit well with the tone of the earlier arts of the film at all.
However, the film does redeem this last chapter at the very end when the story arcs of the two main players are resolved, but I couldn't help but think that the final denouement would have worked just as well, better even, without the metaphysical interlude that precedes it.
The settings, largely the great outdoors of Oregon and Texas, are magnificent and as the story moves from killing cold to killing heat we see the harshness of nature from both ends.
The subtext of heaven and hell is written all over the script and the scenery and it is always possible that the entire film is some sort of Dante-esque pursuit through purgatory, none the less the plot could have been a little tighter.
That said, the performances from Neeson, Brosnan and Wincott are all excellent and they breath life into the relatively sketchy characters and simple storyline.
Not an all time classic western, but a good solid movie, memorable for its odd ending and its strong performance from Pierce Brosnan.
The onscreen writing tells us it,s The Ruby Mountains in 1868. An un-named man (Peirce Brosnan) is seen settling down for the evening in the snowy wilderness- building a fire and cooking his supper. A shot rings out missing him narrowly but the second hits him in the arm . It transpire there is a posse on his trail ,led by taciturn Carver(Liam Neeson) and that Carver is paying these men to help him hunt this man down.
The question that will bug every viewer here is : Is the man being hunted the villain or the hero?Are the moral boundaries between the two more blurred than that? We soon learn that both men are haunted by an event in their past and when one confronts the other after a riveting chase through the unforgiving landscape the pursued who we now know is called Gideon asks what it,s all about and Carver replies "Seraphim Falls."
For an hour or so as a compelling chase ensues Seraphim Falls is terrific exciting cinema. The two leads give intense performances giving the action a harrowing realistic frisson and the support cast are excellent too. Director and TV veteran David Von Ancken also wrote the script with Abby Everett Jaques and as long as they stick to the bare bones of the story, and it,s a simple enough story , the film succeeds admirably .
However this basic premise is dragged out way tool long and for the last twenty minutes descends into metaphysical and metaphorical territory that is an attempt to invest the film with a profundity that does,nt sit easily with what has gone before.Wes Studi pops up as a aphorism dispensing Indian and then Anjelica Huston as an liniment dispensing saleswoman who succinctly points out : "You men, always choosing a gun instead of a remedy".As she drives her wagon away we see on the back it is owned by Louise C .Fair (Lucifer).
When Seraphim Falls is a movie about two protagonists shooting at each other it works. A taut lean genuinely thrilling movie with the added bonus of jaw dropping scenery , it could and should have been a modern classic western . By sticking on a well meaning but bloated conclusion the writers almost ruin what has gone before. Not quite though . For all it,s misguided profundity Seraphim Falls is still well worth watching .
on 24 July 2008
Firstly,let me say that Seraphim Falls is a welcome addition to the western genre; chiefly because it was made at all in a lean time for Westerns. Secondly let me say that a story as thin as this needs so much more than great locations and earnest, talented actors. Seraphim Falls starts excitingly and a level of tension (despite some heinous editing) is pretty much maintained. Then, after Pierce Brosnan confronts a youthful outlaw, it becomes outlandish, cliched nonsense. It enters into a collection of other, better films (Shane, A Man Called Horse, Unforgiven) aping them poorly and showing itself up as corrupt of any genuine, conclusive ideas. The 'dream' sequence with Anjelica Huston is testimony to this. It's surreal ambiguity a metaphor for the second half of the film.
It seems Seraphim Falls wanted to be another brooding, silent, noir-western (like The Assasination Of Jesse James) but, unlike that excellent piece of work, it didn't have the right people where it really matters - behind the camera and on the script. Shame really. But kudos in particular to Brosnan who's post-Bond freedom (as relished in The Matador) is clearly a welcome Godsend.
No film is perfect - at least none that I've seen; and this one does have its flaws, particularly involving the ending, which is quite bizarre to say the least. Nevertheless, there is much to compensate for those flaws, not least the acting of both stars and supporting cast, and, apart from the ending, it's easy to banish them to a level just below that of conscious awareness and allow them to drift away.
Essentially, it's a chase and revenge movie set against a backdrop of sumptuous scenery and majestic skies; Neeson, in company with four `employees', doggedly pursues Brosnan across frozen mountainous wastes and parchment dry deserts and, on several occasions, comes close to seizing and dispatching his quarry for reasons, not forthcoming until we approach the end. Along the way, we meet various ancillary characters that add a bit of spice to what might otherwise have been a somewhat one dimensional narrative.
As others have mentioned, it is quite slow paced for a chase movie but I didn't find it any less tense for that and felt the pace a perfect match for the vastness of the country across which the pursuit took place.
on 28 January 2011
A movie I never heard of, Seraphim Falls depicts the chase of Pierce Brosnan by Liam Neeson, all the way from a snowy forest to unrelenting deserts. It has a great pace and I really enjoyed the fact that the movie only shows how Liam Neeson is and it is only towards the end that we get to see why he is chasing Pierce. It makes for a morally grey movie, where you can root for both characters.
The picture quality is outstanding. Faces are very detailed, colors are well saturated plus the cinematography is of very high level. Combined with the great image quality, this really is a looker.
The only nitpicking would be that in the area where movie starts of, in the snowy forest, detail isn't as pronounced as it is through the rest of the movie.
Aduio quality was good, though nothing spectacular. The movie simply doesn't have massive gun fights or explosions which would give your audio system a workout.
Overall, the movie is highly recommended, especially at such a low price.
on 18 February 2008
Seraphim Falls almost makes it into the territory of the great westerns. It is well acted (I haven't seen Brosnan this good in anything), beautifully shot and moves along at a wonderfully measured pace. Essentially, this is picaresque journey through the west structured around a revenge narrative. Neeson is tracking Brosnan. As the chase goes on, both parties meet interesting characters. And then they eventually meet face to face.
The film has a grit and a reality at its core, but also is alive to the sheer strangeness and multiplicity of the frontier, and the ending I found genuinely surprising. The one bum note in the film is the Neeson character's backstory which is, after all, the engine driving the whole narrative. The loss of his family is certainly reason enough for his quest, but as depicted it lacks power and drama (see, perhaps, The Outlaw Josey Wales for much more effective presentation of similar dramatic material).
on 14 August 2014
I give this five stars because this movie really surprised me, positively, on several fronts.
First, I had never heard of it and saw it purely by luck, I had no idea what it was about.
Second, it starts really strongly and keeps it up (pretty much, but I will not spoil your fun). Action scenes are amazing, and the scenery is beautiful.
Third, Pierce Brosnan is really far from his usual polished roles here, he convincingly plays a gritty character.
Fourth, there are several "offbeat" characters in this movie, like the Indian towards the end, I found that quite good.
Fifth, the last third of the film took me by surprise, and the ending was not what I expected (I will again not spoil it for you). Whether you like it or not, the
end is .. "special".
Well, no need to dissect this further, it is just a great movie, I recommend you to watch it.
Both Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson have been putting in superb performances in their last few movies, and the first pairing of them in "Seraphim Falls" is proof that both are now genuine class acts - only getting better with age and skill. Brosnan is a revelation in Seraphim Falls (as he was in "The Matador") just as Neeson was in "Batman Returns", "Kingdom Of Heaven", and especially his Oscar-winning turn in "Kinsey". In their latter years, each has acquired a grizzly realism that is serving them both well and their choices in movies.
The story is fairly simple - two ex Civil War Sergeants are locked into a Frontier manhunt in 1868 - the manhunt takes them from the snowy slopes of Ruby Mountain, down through freezing rivers and into open pilgrim-filled ranges. Relentlessly on it goes - through homesteads and finally to a desert area that in many ways resembles both of them - arid, empty, drained and dry. Brosnan is the hunted and Neeson the pursuer, but we only find out as the movie slowly moves on, 'why' Neeson is so obsessed with hunting Brosnan's character Gideon - and not just killing him either - but making him bleed and hurt as much as possible (dialogue above). It's essentially a cowboy chase movie, but done with such style and intelligence, that it grips you for the first hour like a Terminator that just won't stop. The support cast is all uniformly excellent too, but it's the two leads that hold it together.
The cinematography is spectacular and the look and dialogue given to both leads, just right. It's let down though as some reviewers have rightly pointed out by an odd last twenty minutes that in many ways spoils the great journey you just made with these two essentially good men locked into the horrible aftermath of war. Very old fashioned in ways, but hugely enjoyable - I'm reminded of 'Jeremiah Johnson' from 1971 with Robert Redford and "Black Robe" from 1991 by director Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies and Breaker Morant) - two fantastic frontier `story' films that are rarely seen, but worth every second of your time seeking them out.
The BLU RAY is now only a fiver new on Amazon - which is some kind of bargain on a format that isn't exactly chockers with them. As you can imagine the image is superb and adds a great deal to your enjoyment of the movie. The BLU RAY also carries over the short but informative "Making Of" from the original DVD issue - it has interviews with all the principal leads - clearly enjoying themselves and drawn by a good script and great locations. But it's the driving story and picture quality that keep you coming back.
Having sat through some truly appalling films of late, "Seraphim Falls" was like a breath of fresh air to me - and I wish I'd seen at the movies.
Both Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson have been putting in superb performances in their last few movies, and the first pairing of them in "Seraphim Falls" is proof that both are now genuine class acts - only getting better with age and skill. Brosnan is a revelation in Seraphim Falls (as he was in 'The Matador') just as Neeson was in 'Batman Returns', 'Kingdom Of Heaven', and especially his Oscar-winning turn in 'Kinsey'. In their latter years, each has acquired a grizzly realism that is serving them both well and their choices in movies.
The story is fairly simple - two ex Civil War Sergeants are locked into a Frontier manhunt in 1863 - the manhunt takes them from the snowy mountain ranges, down through freezing rivers and into open pilgrim-filled ranges, through homesteads and finally to a desert area that in many ways resembles both of them - arid, empty, drained and dry. Brosnan is the hunted and Neeson the pursuer, but we only find out as the movie slowly moves on, `why' Neeson is so obsessed with hunting Brosnan's character Gideon - and not just killing him either - but making him bleed and hurt as much as possible. It's essentially a cowboy chase movie, but done with such style and intelligence, that it grips you for the first hour like a Terminator that just won't stop. The support cast are all uniformly excellent too, but it's the two leads that hold it together.
The cinematography is spectacular and the look and dialogue given to both leads, just right. It's let down though as some reviewers have rightly pointed out by an odd last twenty minutes that in many ways spoils the great journey you just made with these two essentially good men locked into the horrible aftermath of war.
Very old fashioned in ways, but hugely enjoyable - I'm reminded of 'Jeremiah Johnson' from 1971 with Robert Redford and "Black Robe" from 1991 by director Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies and Breaker Morant) - two fantastic frontier `story' films that are rarely seen, but worth every second of your time seeking them out.
Having sat through some truly appalling films of late, Seraphim Falls was like a breath of fresh air to me - and I wish I'd seen at the movies. Recommended.