If there was a film never holding back of anything, it is this
film, 25th HOUR. Spike Lee is a director who loves challenges. He
goes after things that others shy away from. Some may not like him
because he doesn’t play by “their” rules and that’s great, otherwise
we wouldn’t have films like “Do The Right Thing” or “Bamboozled”.
I’m saying if these films are good or bad, but the concept and the
images are worth noting. Speaking of images, Spike Lee is also a
New York City filmmaker, and while many have come to this city to
shoot, each has been afraid to shoot in present time and highlight
the current events surrounding the city, specifically 9/11. The
25th HOUR is based on a book by David Benioff, and Director Lee
has done a brilliant job of bringing this story to the big screen
using elements of New York City as secondary characters to go along
with the amazing acting by the entire cast, specifically Edward
Norton. It is clearly one of the best films of 2002.
As the story begins, Monty Brogan (Norton) and his friend Kostya
(Siragusa) find a wounded dog and think about what to do with it.
Being the noble one, Monty decides to take the dog and somehow find
help. Flash forward a few years later, Monty is by a bench overlooking
the Hudson River while watching his dog. When a drug junkie wants
to buy some drugs from Monty, he’s pissed when Monty rejects him
and tells him that he’s out of the game. Seems that Monty’s been
“pinched” and has to do some
time, 7 years. It all occurred one day while Monty was home with
his girlfriend Naturalle Rivera (Dawson). While having some fun
in the bathtub, the doorbell rings and it the FBI. While Monty boldly
challenges them to search his apartment, he’s sudden surprised when
they don’t do so and know exactly where the stash of drugs are hidden.
As he is caught, prosecuted, and convicted, he’s decided to make
amends with close friends and family the day before he leaves for
prison. His father James (Cox) always knew Monty was smart but didn’t
use brains for good use. Monty pays visits to his childhood friends
Francis and Jacob (Pepper and Hoffman) and asks them to share the
last day with him. They are there for him even though they knew
and should have said something throughout the years. As Monty starts
prepares for what seems to be the end of freedom, he ponders his
relationship with Naturalle. She loves him, but did she turn him
in? On his last night, Monty even has to face his drug-dealing boss
and let them know he won’t be a rat. Lots to do and think about
before the taste of freedom is gone.
First off, the cast is remarkable. Each character is fleshed out
with a background that there’s nothing missing. The minute we know
the characters and what they’re all about through flashbacks, we
can tell where they are going without having any contrived situations.
Norton, as the lead, brings the same gift he brings to most of his
role. He’s edgy, cool, and remorseful. In a classic scene that will
be talked about for a while, he makes the most of the lines and
brings out what some New Yorker think but won’t say. As his girlfriend,
Dawson displays raw emotion as she must sit back and watch her man
go through the most difficult day of his life. Pepper and Hoffman
play their parts well as the a wall street guy and a teacher with
such realism that one wonders how they stayed connected when they
are each are so different from the other. It’s a credit to the writer/
novelist David Benioff that he crafted such an enduring relationship
between childhood friends. They may be different now as they grew
apart over the years but the relationship is deep and everlasting.
The score by Terence Blanchard, who has done many of Spike’s films,
is very rich, dramatic and emotional. It serves as a voice in some
ways, sometimes manipulatively, but drawing you closer to the story.
This could have been a simple story about a guy spending his last
day with his boys, but Director Spike Lee took it to another level.
He shot the film in the aftermath of 9/11 and used the WTC scenery
as backdrops to go along with the characters and their backgrounds.
He embraces it, as we should all do. This is a film where one is
totally involved with all of the characters. Some periods may get
dark, but life does go on, and 25th HOUR is a film where one examines
life and the advantages it offers.