Monday, February 1, 2010

Edge of Darkness (2010) – Review

Edge of Darkness is an effective thriller about a detective hunting down the person(s) responsible for the death of his daughter (aka, do not mess with Mel Gibson’s family – you would think after Braveheart and The Patriot bad guys would know not to kill his family, that only pisses him off and makes him go crazy; the British would have concurred Scotland and America if they just did not kill members of his family, big mistake, and yet here again it happens). The film is an interesting combination of an action-packed thriller with jarring moments and a man dealing with the loss of his daughter. Her death is haunting him (literally, or so it appears early on in the film) – shown in a seemingly out of place fashion for the type of film this presents itself to be. Director Martin Campbell manifests this relationship between grieving-father and lost loved-one through flashbacks of her as a young child, which is a typically used device, and the atypical instruments (again for this type of film) of Gibson hearing her voice speak to him in the present and him responding to her, as well and Gibson seeing her and even interacting with her, as if this were a ghost story of some sort. While these elements feel odd and out of place for most of the film, Campbell is able to pay it off in a surprisingly satisfactory way – thereby making it work and adding a new almost spiritual dimension to the film. Thus upon resolution, it is not so much that her spirit is haunting him (in a literal sense); rather it is used to both show his sadness but also his motivation to bring forth justice – to fully lay her spirit to rest in his mind – in a more realized dramatic sense for the character than flashbacks alone would have created. Writer William Monahan also brings his style of impactful violence and no nonsense realistic feeling dialog to the feature, which also benefits the finish product greatly. While the film does deal with Gibson finding out why and who killed his daughter, Campbell (as seen in his thematic choices) is more interested in Gibson’s emotional journey, again reflected in the spiritual nature of the finale shot. The film works well through Campbell’s directing and Monahan’s writing as a straight thriller, but it is really the journey, at first seeming like weakness to the films overall structure, that sets it apart from other films of its genre (like Taken). There is a political tone to the film as well; and as the case often is, it is against big business and government, siding with the everyman (to some degree). It is interesting to see that here it is the arrogance of power that ultimately leads to its own downfall. While it seems that the everyman or one man or a small group could not stand up to such a large and formidable façade, it is just that which makes it vulnerable. This is a device that speaks to the audience, especially in times that we face today. And thus, all in all, it is a potent tool to engage the viewer. Mel Gibson does fine work in the film. While it is fairly common ground for him in terms of past roles, he is still an engaging star that the viewer gets behind, benefiting the narrative of the film. Ray Winstone and Danny Huston (who strangely looks like a gangster boss more so than a CEO in his final scene) play their roles well too. And in small roles, Denis O’Hare and Damien Young are quite effective. Phil Meheux’s collaboration with Campbell created a number of outstanding shots in the film (I especially like the composition of the opening frame). Overall Edge of Darkness manages to be a gripping thriller, full of intense action pieces, while also appealing to the emotional need of the audience. 7/10

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