Tuesday, 14 October 2008
SERAPHIM FALLS (2006)
Directed by: David Von Ancken
Written by: David Von Ancken & Abby Everett Jacques
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson & Angelica Huston
Dark, brutal and riveting, Seraphim Falls is a mean and moody western that rarely lets up from the get go. Unfairly ignored on its initial blink and you’ll miss it release, David Von Ancken’s film brings the dirt and grit back to the western and gives its two leading men their best roles in ages. Neeson’s Carver is relentlessly pursuing Brosnan’s Gideon across the harsh Wild West wilderness determined to bring him to justice for a past discrepancy. Carver doesn’t care what the cost is to himself or his posse (which includes Michael Wincott and Ed Lauter) as long as Gideon is captured. But Gideon is a man of resource, a skilled soldier, hunter and trapper who is prepared to go to any lengths to outwit his pursuers.
As much a chase thriller as it is a western, Seraphim Falls works thanks to its simplicity, its grit and the brilliant performances from the leads. Neeson is riveting as Carver, a man with tunnel vision who will not accept any outcome other than the capture of Gideon. Along with Taken, this film shows Neeson is still a very gifted and underrated actor able to switch from any genre and role and fill its boots convincingly. But as good as he is it’s Brosnan that steals the show. The former James Bond has rarely been better and gets the role of the life time in the dark and dangerous Gideon. Hidden under a massive beard and a presence that gives the sense this man has actually been to hell and back, Brosnan completely inhibits Gideon, a man who can adapt to and survive almost any situation he finds himself in. The two actors completely engage the audience with their characters, characters who are not wholly sympathetic or walk the path of good.
Von Ancken also makes the setting as much a character, the American wilderness a harsh and unforgiving place. From the snowy plains of the mountains to harsh vistas of the deserts, the setting makes an impact and pushes the characters to breaking point. This adds to the tension, the chase always pushing on and the filmmakers orchestrating some white knuckle set pieces. Despite being a western there are no real shootouts or showdowns but there is plenty of rugged action. Not least a surprising knife to the face and a unique use of a dead horse.
Despite the general simplicity of the set up and flow of the plot, the film takes a risky but successful detour come the last third, elevating it from your run of the mill western and providing a fitting denouncement for the characters. It may put some viewers off, especially when Angelica Huston’s wandering healer shows up, but it all fits together perfectly and leaves a lasting impact. Despite a few lags between the action and chases, Seraphim Falls is a unique and rewarding experience and the best damn western to come a long in an age.