Studio: Warner Bros.
US Rating: R -Strong Violence, Language and Some Sexuality
Film Length: 2hr 2 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1
Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: Optional English, French and Spanish
The Film - out of
A revenge picture with a soul. That pretty much sums up this surprising, flawed, but enjoyable thriller. Jodie Foster stars as Erica Bain, the host of a radio talk show who witnesses the brutal beating and death of her boyfriend, an attack in which she nearly dies herself. After recovering from the physical injuries, she returns home where unsettled emotional state becomes almost unbearable. Jittery and sheepish, she is no longer able to wander the streets of New York, ‘the safest big city in the world’, alone. Soon she decides that the only way she can regain her sanity and hold on to a sense of safety is by getting a gun, which she does illegally. One night as she shops at a convenience store, she is the sole witness to a brutal slaying, and when she is threatened by the murderer, lashes out – shooting and killing the man. Rather than rush to the police, she covers her steps and retreats to her apartment. Something has changed in her – she is no longer the same person.
And so begins her series of ‘vigilante’ actions, events that fall under the investigation of Detective Mercer, played by Terrence Howard. As she becomes ever more entwined with her unfamiliar and dark side, Erica forms a strange relationship and bond with Mercer. A bond that deepens as they explore their feelings on vigilantism, the moral responsibilities of abiding by the law and the human fragility in fighting, reacting and surviving.
What sets this film vastly apart from other so-called ‘revenge’ movies is the dedicated effort not to make this an action movie and not to allow the easy-to-want visceral experiences associated with bad-guys getting their comeuppance slip in. The strength of this film relies upon that distinction, carried by the hands of the talented British film director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) and the sensitive and emotionally rich performance by Jodie Foster. There are extremely brutal moments in The Brave One, moments that are jarring and hard to watch without grimacing just a little, but they make real for us the senselessness of murder rather than allow us to feel anything that resembles satisfaction when bad people doing bad things are grimly ended.
The film ably poses the moral question of revenge – if not as a legitimate course of action, then certainly as an instinct of human nature and how, it seems, just about anyone could find themselves in a position of walking along that ethically ambiguous line. Director Neil Jordan creates an almost ethereal, out of body feel to the film, most striking when the Erica Bain character is feeling the most venerable or the most unrestricted by a ‘protective’ violent act. The camera floats in unusual ways around Jodie Foster’s character as a visual reminder of unease and her disconnect with who she thought she was.
Performances in the film are all very good. While Terrence Howard would appear to be populating a rather stock detective role, he actually brings a very human and realistic tone to his portrayal, elevating beyond the normal a character that could easily have been dismissed from his resume. The interplay between Howard and Foster also provide for some great scenes.
While there is a distinct implausibility in the progression of the Bain character from victim to vigilante, mainly in the ‘wrong place, wrong time’ scenes that follow each other rather quickly, the transformation and turmoil that she endures on the inside comes through subtly in Foster’s performance.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Brave One having been less than impressed by the trailers. It sinks into a grey area of human reality – a darkness in the soul that, even if we could not believe ourselves capable of doing what Erica Bain does, we might find ourselves being somewhat okay with it, or at least, not as disgusted by her actions as we should be (or would hope ourselves to be). The movie heightens our sympathy for where Erica Bain goes with the graphic beating that serves as the catalyst for her revenge and by accentuating the paralysis created by levels of bureaucracy and procedural necessities in the legal system. In doing so, it opens the door a little wider for exploring the what, how and why of this grieving and scared New York City radio host.
Warner Bros. provides The Brave One with a pretty solid release, presented it in its original theatrical ratio of 2.4:1 and encoded VC-1, a staple of Warner’s Hi-Def slate.
While it doesn’t quite pop like some of Warner Bros.’ other new releases, coming across a tad soft at times, it still has a really clean, blemish free image. As noted in the special features, the look of the film does not employ any stylized de-saturation and so there is more warmth here than in other thrillers of late and it suits the film well.
The Brave One comes with a Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1 audio options (in addition to French and Spanish 5.1).
Jodie Foster’s character, being a radio presenter, also finds and records her own ‘sounds of the city’, which allows the various ambient city noises to become an element of the story. Those elements allow for some good directional effects in the surrounds, noises that move around the sound field which work really well. If this were an action film, the audio would be a bit of a let down – but as it is, it suits the film nicely
<I Walk The City: – (21:00) – A look at the making of the film – it isn’t as deep as this film deserves, but it does allow the producer, stars and director to share some thoughts about creating the film and being something a little more substantive than simply a ‘genre’ film.
Additional Scenes: – (6:00) – These scenes left on the cutting room floor are okay, but they add little to the narrative and would have slowed things down too much. Interesting but better left out of the film.
I was far more engaged in the story and characters than I thought I would be and it was a far cry from the ridiculous revenge films like Death Wish, of which any comparison is simply wrong. The examination of revenge; the emotional toll and struggle of an otherwise rational and intelligent woman doing such things becomes a fascinating journey. Jodie Foster, who manages to pick roles that are as fragile as they are strong, reminds us of her incredible talents. Her performance alone is worth giving this film your time. Flaws aside, The Brave One is a good movie.