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The Best of 2007: 'Seraphim Falls'

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Seraphim Falls

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Like Sleuth, this surprisingly good Western is about two men set on destroying each other. It is surprising because every Western that has followed Clint Eastwood's 1992 masterpiece, Unforgiven, has either fallen extremely short or has its cowboy based troupes misplaced. And like this year's Oscar Best Picture winner No Country for Old Men, this film too is about hunting. Whereas No Country can be labeled as a modern Western, Seraphim Falls is a great throwback to the old days where John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Huston, George Stevens, John Sturges, Sergio Leone, and Sam Peckinpah came out with Westerns like gangbusters. In the spirit of John Ford's films, this film carries a very emotional conflict between these two characters and like Sam Peckinpah's films exhibits a great flare for violence. The violence speaks volumes for these characters' drives.

Director David Von Ancken, mostly a director of American TV shows, makes his feature film debut with impressive results. The photography in this film is quite beautiful reminding us what we miss so much about the Western and get very little of in modern cinema: the simple but beautiful surroundings of America. One of the most daring moves on the filmmakers' part was the casting of two Irish actors (great actors no doubt) in the parts of these American frontiersmen. While Neeson is excellent as always, it is Brosnan who really steals the show with an intensity and ferocity unlike many of his other killer characters. Being such a stark contrast to Bond (impatient, unclean, brooding), it is this interpretation that makes his character so eerily riveting. What this seems to do for the film is create a sense of otherworldly mystique around these two men. Not going along with the argument that they are just not right for the roles, these two actors very convincingly sport American accents as well as the American slang and swagger that our country has certainly grown to cherish.

The hunt of this film is motivated by the unintentional killing of Liam Neeson's character's wife, played by the beautiful Angie Harmon, and their young son. If any good man was married to Angie Harmon, we would be extremely pissed too! The simple fact that Brosnan's character, a prominent figure in the Union army, is sent to detain Neeson, a Confederate hero, after the war and inadvertently causes a scarring incident leaves the audience with a terrifying idea that some wars never end for certain people. A few years later, Neeson hires a band of gunmen to help him hunt Brosnan down leaving the ever sorry Union soldier to fend for himself. As the film progresses however, the hunt become more and more intense turning Brosnan's character into an animal and Neeson ever more intent on never letting go. By the end of the film we are left with a rather spiritual scenario, is the pain and suffering felt for this horrible accident worth more pain and suffering for these two characters and who on the outside would be watching all this and laughing in delight? Angelica Huston, the daughter of the great director John Huston, shows up at the very end with a fantastic little performance to pose this exact question to us.

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