Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wishful Thinking and the 25th Hour

Spike Lee’s “25th Hour” has a wonderfully intriguing premise: A drug dealer (Ed Norton) has been busted and is about to be sent to prison for several years. The film shows us his last 24 hours of freedom before reporting for his sentence.

Somewhat like the “what to do with a corpse” premise, the idea of setting aside your life and going to prison absolutely consumes me with fascination. Both instances pose dramatic questions for the protagonist (and for us, the viewers — “What in the world would I ever do in this situation?”) that are psychologically unsettling.

And though “25th Hour” is well made and an overall good film, unfortunately, it presents us with this particular man’s last 24 hours, instead of stirring us to wonder what we might do with our remaining time. Now, to clarify — of course the film would show us its protagonist’s last 24 hours, but his to-do list is more unique than it is universally applicable; therefore, the spell of pulling our minds into the movie is broken by our awareness that we are simply watching someone else’s problem, someone else’s story.

Still, the subplot involving Philip Seymour Hoffman as a tempted school teacher is also an equally psychologically troubling premise. So, the characters are interesting and engaging, the unfolding events are intriguing and the film is well made. But I wish it were the film I had hoped it would be.

And though I dearly love the guys at the /Filmcast, I’m disappointed that Dave Chen had me all excited for a “very disturbing” final scene. If you happen upon this post, Dave, would you please explain why you thought this last scene (which is definitely ambiguous as to which decision is made) was so disturbing.


David Chen said...

Did I really use the word "disturbing"? I meant to say "haunting." Because the whole of life, and the unforeseen, dramatic consequences of our actions are all encapsulated within those last 5 minutes.

Jason Pyles, Movie Critic said...

Hi Dave! Thanks for commenting on our site. OK. Maybe you did use the word haunting, instead of disturbing. I guess I consider those words to be synonyms when it comes to film. But thanks for the explanation. I understand now where you were coming from, and I'm no longer disappointed.

P.S. Today is a two-fold great day: It's Oscar night and Dave Chen visited our blog.