Top critical review
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Great acting with startling backdrops, recommended viewing.
on 27 January 2010
Continuing the spate of recent westerns including,, the Out-Back set The Proposition, 3:10 to Yuma, Appaloosa, and The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford among others is Seraphim Falls, an enjoyable story and worthwhile film centered around the bitter pursuit of a one time union solider, played terrifically by Pierce Brosnan, by a an ex military Colonel portrayed by the great Liam Neeson. It is relentless if initially ambiguous nature of Neeson's pursuit that sets up the entire film. As this is virtually a hunter and prey chase the rest of the characters provide a substitute in the gap of a fully realized story or plot. That's not to imply that Seraphim Falls is not in possession of a decent character or even an idea outside of it's two main guns but whatever of the claims by Brosnan in the behind the scenes doc about this being an anti-war film Seraphim Falls exists for the chase, the hunting of Brosnan's man by Neeson and it is with great relief that two such actors provide nuance and screen presence to accompany the typically well-shot and appealing landscapes as they not only provide and sustain the viewers interest but manage to extract several quiet, emotional moments that subsidies the harsher aspects of the story with moments of genuine human feeling, giving a faint but real heart-beat to a film that could have descended into meaningless bursts of violence accompanied by picturesque foregrounds.
I think on the strength of the performances alone, in addition to the two leads we are treated to appearances from the likes of Michael Wincott, Angelica Huston, Tom Noonan and several other familiar faces, Seraphim Falls is easily worth a look but there are several other factors that bolster the film, namely the stunning imagery provided by the landscape ranging from frost ridden mountain passes to the unforgiving, desolate stretch in the desert as the film progresses.
The story itself is close to essentially being one elongated chase sequence between Carver (Neeson's) and a group of hired guns by his side never terribly far behind Gideon (Brosnan). From the start we brief shoot-out that leads to probably the most impressive set piece in the film involving Gideon and a pounding waterfall descent. From there Gideonis put through his paces be it tending to a wound by gouging out a bullet from his arm or attemtping to avoid running foul of unscrupulous characters that run abound in films such as these. And that always been one of my favorite traits in westerns, their seemingly endless landscapes existing as perfect grounds for directors to give very good actors grounds to suddenly, in the case of Seraphim Falls literally, appear out of nowhere sometimes in wonderfully bizarre fashion as here-Angelica Huston in particular in a brief but memorable supporting performance. As the plot of Seraphim Falls is essentially a chase through the wilderness, occasionally punctuated by bursts of violence (being a hired gun appears to have been a more than precarious means of getting by) as well as the aforementioned cameos that crop up rather regularly the filmmakers wisely hit the ground running with a brief shoot-out that leads to probably the most impressive set-piece, involving Gideon and a pounding waterfall descent that sends us on our way through a story that to my best estimation works out as chase-halt-meet intriguing side character-chase-halt-intriguing character etc until the finale which is plays around with symbolism to an extent that is slightly at odds with what proceeds it but to it's credit avoids any by the number shoot-outs and resolves itself on a more cerebral level.
Having possibly out-stayed my welcome I'll wrap things up by referencing what one critic remarked of Seraphim Falls. Without a clear-cut "bad guy" the film is even more interesting but it's down to the excellent work by the two leads that keeps these men interesting. Flashbacks, more or less, provide reasons for why each man is where he is but their characterization never really grows beyond a sketchy outline-not that it really needs to give more of either here- Nessons forceful screen presence and the sympathetic, oddly interesting appearance Brosnan takes on keeps the motor on Seraphim Falls alive (I think with two lesser actors the film would have died in the waters), and that for me was enough for what is, as advertised, a gritty chase and revenge western. Strong acting, a feast for the eyes in the backdrop and confident direction (from co-writer David Von Ancken) draws my hand here and though not on a par with other films in the genre that have seen release in the decade just past, Seraphim Falls is for the most part a gripping western worthy of your attention. 3.5/5
DVD extras include a directors commentary which also has Brosnan's participation and there's a behind the scenes feature with the producers, director and lead actors that runs for approximately twenty minutes