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Film Review: 25th Hour

At the last minute Spike Lee and Ed Norton team together...

The 25th Hour follows a drug-dealer, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), during his last few hours of freedom before beginning a seven year jail sentence in a maximum security prison. Along for the ride are his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) and his two oldest friends Jacob and Frank (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper). By the end of the evening Monty and his friends will have (nearly) all confronted uncomfortable facts about their lives and the choices that they have made.

Ed Norton in 25th HourThe film has been described as Spike Lee's most mature work and while he does a fine job it is probably his least adventurous film as a director. Apart from a hate filled diatribe against the whole world by Monty and a concluding sequence that is both deeply moving and deeply frustrating the film is essentially a chamber piece that a viewer would imagine started life as a play instead of novel. The most daring decision taken by the makers (although it should not be so) is the acknowledgement the events of 9/11 in the daily lives of New Yorkers. The constant presence of American flags and the two beams of light (that replace the Twin Towers) are affecting reminders of an irreversibly altered city.

David Benioff does an efficient job adapting his own (pre 9/11) novel for the screen (although it is never fully explained why the nice people at the DEA allow Monty time for one last voyage of discovery before incarceration) and Terence Blanchard's beautiful score is effectively used but the strongest element of the film is its cast. The always excellent Norton portrays Monty as a charismatic and intelligent man who has wasted the opportunities given to him. Hoffman and Pepper provide sterling support as the childhood friends examining their own unsatisfactory lives with Pepper (no doubt gratefully) making amends for the presence of Battlefield Earth on his CV. X-men alumni Anna Paquin and Brian Cox both make an impression in small roles but the potentially complex character of Naturelle (a seemingly intelligent and caring woman happy to enjoy a lifestyle paid for by drugs) is an opportunity wasted despite the excellent performance from Rosario Dawson.

While the film lacks the visceral edge of Lee's earlier work The 25th Hour is nonetheless a demanding and intelligent film that dares to ask questions without always providing easy answers.

Ciara Cloak

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