Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Anatomy of a Scene: The 25th Hour

"It all came so close to never happening. This life came so close to never happening"

The best passage in the 2002 film The 25th Hour is nothing like you’d expect from its maker, combative Spike Lee. The series of short scenes that unfold after James Brogan puts his battered son Monty in the car are, in all likelihood, an alternative reality dreamed up by a father who cannot deal with the idea of his son going to prison. On the way to jail, James starts to talk about leaving town, driving out west. We’ll have one last whiskey, he says, and part ways forever. Monty will then change his name, get a job, settle down, have kids. He can never come back, or be who he was before, but he’ll have a life. As the old man speaks, images from Monty’s new life flash before us, teasing us with the possibility that all any jailbird needs is a dad willing to drive him out of town. Yet, I found myself moved to tears, and reduced to arguing, unconvincingly, with myself about how Monty does indeed escape and start a new life. What makes these scenes all the more touching is that you wouldn’t expect Brian Cox, a no-nonsense actor if ever there was one, to be selling you a can of hot baloney, and you don’t expect Spike Lee, whose career has always been about confrontation, to direct something that’s pure escapism.

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