Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Film Review: Out of the Furnace

Copyright: Relativity Media
Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana and Christian Bale are all part of this movie’s cast. It’s a story about two brothers. Russell, the older one, works in a steel mill and tries to do his best with not that much in life. His younger brother, Rodney is in the military, and has a bad temper combined with a fast fist. Their lives are a constant challenge, but one unpaid debt will cause Rodney to disappear and set Russell on an inquiry that will leave bodies, if not answers.

Apart from before mentioned actors, Sam Shepard and Forest Whitaker also star in this film. The director Scott Cooper had more fantastic artist in his cast than most A-list movies, and I can’t praise any one of them in particular, because everyone did a superb job. Even those with the least amount of on screen time simply shine in their roles, like Whitaker as the local cop who also married Russell’s former girlfriend whom he still adores.

Slow-moving and very broad in its development of the main story, Out of the Furnace is primarily a drama about family relations and the burden it comes with them. It’s not a neo-noir film, and it’s barely a thriller. But this isn’t a bad thing for me, but instead the nature of storytelling that Cooper chose for this film. With a cast he had at his disposal, this was the right call in my book. The film is full of tension and suspense, but not the kind that involves shootings and character ducking behind cover when the action breaks out.

In the reference frame of the film, this is the way people live their lives. The tension is a part of the bleak everyday reality where money is always needed and guns perceived as regular objects. The film brilliantly uses Perl Jam/Eddie Vedder tunes to further pain this gray picture. Eddie Vedder’s voice is hauntingly painful and at the same time melancholic and at peace, much like the broader atmosphere of the film.

In a few brief moments, the film reminded me on Killing Them Softly (a film that also wasn’t violent in the way people expected it to be), with its presentation of a deserted industrial town, where business and people are slowly dying together. I remembered this film mostly because of a single Barak Obama speech that can be seen on a screen in the background of a bar, but the parallels are abundant once you start to think about it. Both films, in my opinion, try to capture the feeling of change in a place where nothing really can change for the better, and that’s no one’s fault. The steel mill is going to close, one character says to Russell. Yeah, he replies, we get all of our steel from China.

He isn’t angry or disheartened. Steel simply comes from China, and there is nothing he can do about it. But, he can find his brother, no matter what the cost.