Thursday, February 19, 2009

DVD: 25th Hour

Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Year made: 2002

For whom the bell tolls.

The New Yawker film is an American institution born of a city where legendary directors seem to grow on the very trees of Central Park. For the past two years, every filmmaker has acted like nothing’s changed. But this is a city in denial and it has taken one of New York’s favourite children to gently massage the gaping scar in the sky…

In 25th Hour, Spike Lee is back to his best, tackling a delicate but hugely important aspect of American life. The helmer has carefully set his film in a post-9/11 New York, therapy and providence at the same time, reminding three million people to Do The Right Thing because it might just be your last chance.

Monty Brogan (Norton) is going to jail for seven years and has one last day to put all his affairs in order, mend broken relationships and say goodbye to the people he loves. The subplots concerning Monty’s two best friends and his girlfriend are woven with delightful subtlety by Lee, and set up superb performances from all involved. A special tip of the hat must also go to Barry Pepper’s brilliant turn as cynical Wall Street broker, Francis Slaughtery.

Director of photography Rodrigo Preito’s (Amores Perros) cinematography is stunning, as is the accompanying score from Terence Blanchard (Summer Of Sam), and both honour the DVD format with their skilful eloquence.

The accompanying extras are more than mere filler and make for absorbing viewing. The deleted scenes offer extra little insights into certain characters and benefit your understanding of the movie. Lee’s commentary, which is as heartfelt as it is passionate, is an essential listen. It is packed with information about the shoot, filming techniques and his thoughts about the film. Writer David Benioff’s track is also well worth checking out.

‘Ground Zero – A Tribute’ is simply a short sobering montage of footage of the devastated site Spike took during filming. The disc’s second featurette is far better value. With contributions from directing greats such as Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet and a host of actors and actresses discovered by Lee, it is a comprehensive summation of his work to date.

25th Hour is as moving and unforgettable as it is brilliant.

Special Features:
• Audio commentary by director Lee
• Audio commentary by screenwriter/author David Benioff
• Deleted scenes
• ‘The Evolution Of An American Filmmaker’ featurette (22 mins)
• ‘Ground Zero – A Tribute’ featurette (5 mins)

If you like this why not try…

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Beautifully touching, devastatingly brutal, there’s no experience like watching Shawshank for the first time.

This review first appeared in DVD Review #61