25th Hour

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

There’s about a seven minute montage, or somewhat of a soliloquy in Spike Lee’s 25th Hour
that really makes you stand back and think. In it, the lead character of Monty essentially disses everyone from his father to Osama Bin Laden to every race and culture found in New York City. This is what makes Spike Lee a great filmmaker; he’s not only got the charisma to do a scene like this, but also the clout to pull it off. Though some of his work has been hit and miss, it’s essentially a given that anything by him is something that every movie lover will want to take in (at some point in their life). Though a majority of his movies feature a predominantly black cast, his latest really doesn’t. Instead it deals with feelings and situations as opposed to race, color and creed. Some call it a “return to form” for the man, but I wonder if he ever really lost it. What’s so intriguing about the film is the fact that we get so emotionally involved with the characters, we sometimes feel that we’re not really watching a work of fiction; but rather a documentary of some sort. Norton’s Monty is so despicable, yet so likeable we don’t really know to hate or love him. The same goes for his other friends, one a heartless Wall Street investor and the other a school teacher debating whether or not to have sex with his 17 year-student. Lee’s films have many faces, but none so rich and textured as this.

As the opening credits come to a close, we see Monty (Edward Norton) and his cohort, Kostya (Tony Siragusa). The stumble upon a dog, left for dead. The dog, though near his end, still has fight left in him and Monty (named after Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun) takes him in and gives him a home. We know that Monty is a drug dealer, yet not the kind that have become so readily identified in so many other movies. He’s educated, smart (he got a scholarship to a private school only to get kicked out for selling marijuana to other kids) and somewhat emotionally stable. At the crossroads in his life, he is then taken down by the DEA who bursts in on him and finds enough drugs to put him away for seven years. The movie deals with his last day and his reflections on both what has happened and what will lie ahead. Wanting to live it up as much as he can, he contacts a few of his friends, Jacob Elinsky (Phillip Seymour-Hoffman) and Francis Slaughery (Barry Pepper). One a schoolteacher and the other a ruthless renegade Investment Banker. One is successful, one is not; yet they’re both wealthy. These two, combined with Monty’s girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) compose the meat of what is Monty’s life.

What the film tries to tackle is the fact that people, though they do the wrong things, are still people. Monty, though he breaks the law, is basically a good person but has just chosen the wrong career. His friend Francis is essentially a bad person, but is well within the limits of the law. Who’s better off and who really deserves to get punished? The film lets us decide. Add to this the fact that Monty’s relationship with his father (Brian Cox) isn’t that great. He’s lost his mother at an early age and his father, instead of taking care of him, drank too much and runs a bar for firefighters. A lot of moral boundaries are crossed in this movie, not all we agree with. This lends to the fact that the good guy not always ends up on top. It’s a gritty look at suburban life and one that makes us sit back and think. Though this is not my favorite of Lee’s movies; it’s right up there (it’s nearly impossible to top Malcolm X or Do the Right Thing) but the movie will make you listen and lets you make your own decision. A great film, one of last year’s best, and is not to be missed.

Video: How does it look?

As can be expected, the video transfer for 25th Hour is a very pleasant viewing experience. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is gritty at times, though its supposed to be; it fits the tone of the movie. The colors, at times, are warm and natural, but the majority of it has a very burnt out look with over exposed colors and different hues to reflect the different modes of the movie. The dance club sequence contains the most examples of this as the emotions of the characters vary from minute to minute. Black levels are on target and the detail is clean. No artifacting can be found and is consistent with the high bar that Disney has set.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio is nothing short of superb. There are several examples of how much a great-sounding audio track can really get you involved in the movie. During Monty’s monologue his voice can be heard from nearly every channel in the system, each is used with an exquisite perfection that I found amazing. The dance club sequence makes full use of the channels as well. Dialogue, as can be expected, sounds perfectly natural and though it’s not too “loud”; this is one great soundtrack.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The disc contains two audio commentaries, the first with Director Spike Lee and the next with writer David Benioff. Lee’s track is certainly the one to listen to. Any man with the vision he has and knows what he’s doing is a track that you’ll like. Though it’s hard to fill up the track from opening to end, Lee does a pretty good job of it. I only with the same was true with the second track, there are many lagging spots and Mr. Benioff doesn’t have the same excitement for the film that his Director has. This might have been better had it been edited into one track. Still, it’s nice to have both of these. A featurette entitled “The Evolution of an American Filmmaker” is, naturally, about Spike Lee. The featurette covers his early work and comes full circle to his work on the film here. A very interesting watch and fans of Lee will relish this. A somewhat more disturbing “tribute” is that of Ground Zero. During several spots in the movie, the World Trade Centers (or lack thereof) are featured. What I feel is the film’s only flaw (this seems rather dated), does make a very interesting, yet sad, addition to this disc. Oh, the disc is THX certified, as if that means anything anymore!

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