Director: David Von Ancken
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson
Plot: Gideon (Brosnan) is alone in the woods, when he finds himself hunted by a former Confederate officer (Neeson) and a team of bounty hunters. But why?
I really like Seraphim Falls. I think is a clever movie, with a simple hook, and a clear sign that we really must have more Westerns in modern cinema.
The film is very simple. The shot opens with Pierce Brosnan’s Gideon alone in the frosty woods, roasting a hare. Out of nowhere, he sees a group of horsemen, coming for him, firing shots in the air. Their intent is clear. Gideon flees and thus begins a dangerous cat and mouse game, between two trained ex-soldiers, who have been brought up in a decade of killing. Motives are kept shady and we have no idea which one of these great warriors is going to come out of the film alive. And that is pretty much it, until the final half an hour. A tense thriller where one man has to fend off trained killers and make his way to freedom.
There is a twist here, but I don’t even really think it is fair to call it a twist. It is more manipulation through directing. The film focuses so closely on the action that it isn’t until the final act that we are treated to the bigger picture. When we are treated to the important piece of information, Ancken has been keeping from us, we are sent spinning, unaware that such a narrative device was even on the table. It is such a clever move and brilliant writing. One moment we are watching a certain type of film and then everything is reverted and we are watching another type of film. Usually this would become disorientating and distancing for the viewer, but it is such a subtle change of pace that we are totally on board and appreciating what Ancker has done. He has taken a simple action (that we were totally enjoying), and did something really memorable with it.
Of course the leads are kept in the shadows for so long, we never really get to see too much of a performance. Pierce Brosnan works better under-acting anyway, making this one of his better roles. His grief is kept behind firm eyes and we really feel for his character, even when he makes some choices that would have made anyone else become the most hated guy in the film. As for Liam Neeson, you might realise that this could be the first film that set the actor on his ‘action movie’ hype. He has that gruff American accent and that silent action hero vibe, even if he portrays someone more akin to a villain. The climax lets him go all out as an actor though, and with a movie that suddenly kept us in the dark, it catches up on character development in a few crucial moments.
It’s not perfect though. As soon as the twist is revealed, the film does stop trying. It does have a bit of an anti-climax. It feels as though the entire film was building up to this fantastic twist and when it ends, the writers felt that no one was interested in the story anymore. It kind of fizzles out. It tries to do something meaningful, when we had been so invested in a gripping action, meaningful wasn’t really what we wanted. It is a shame, because if the ending was a little better, then this could be one of my favourite Westerns.
Final Verdict: Anti-climax aside, this is a fantastic Western with a terrific twist and some great action to keep us invested until the final act.