May 1, 2006
Starring: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tony Siragusa, Levani Outchaneichvili, Tony Devon, Misha Kuznetsov, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Michael Genet, Patrice O'Neal, Al Palagonia, Aaron Stanford, ,
Set in a post 9/11 New York, Spike Lee’s latest ensemble drama converges around a convicted drug dealer’s last day of freedom before being hauled off to serve seven years in jail.
Based on a book and screenplay by David Benioff, the writer responsible for the upcoming ‘Troy’, 25th Hour deals heavily with the theme of decisions and the consequences they can have on you and the people around you. Told mostly during a single day and night, we follow Monty (Norton) as he prepares himself for a stint in jail after somebody seems to have betrayed him to the cops. Flashbacks are used sparingly, and despite drugs being so prolific in Monty’s downfall, we aren’t shown Monty ‘at work’, and Lee chooses to focus entirely on the emotional journey rather than a clichéd addiction story. Indeed, Monty seems like a well-to-do middle-class boy from a good background who somehow got in with the wrong crowd.
In a city where the population are facing the consequences of terrorist attacks brought on by questionable government decisions, Monty also has to face up to the choices he made. But this theme is universal, it seems, because his friends each seem to be forced to confront their own actions too.
Old school pals Jacob (Hoffman) and Frank (Pepper) chaperone Monty on his final day, unsuspecting that some home truths about themselves will be brought up by the end of the night. Restrained teacher Jacob has an infatuation with a sparky young student (Paquin), whilst Frank is too busy playing Gordon Gekko on the stock market to realise how hollow his life has become, treating everything with a cynical eye towards money and sex to mask his own insecurities. These men, like Monty, have to reap what they sow.
Meanwhile girlfriend Naturelle has a hard time communicating with Monty because he might suspect she’s the one who turned him in, and also starts to question exactly why she hooked up with him in the first place. Was it just for money?
There are gems to be found amidst the heavyweight philosophising – Norton ranting at his own reflection about what he hates about New York, Paquin’s bubbly post-modern-Lolita walking a thin line between obnoxiousness and blatant self-destruction (and having to face her own sobering outcome as a result). Best of all is the trendy nightclub scene where pressure is attempted to be discarded, but only seems to build up even more. “Champagne for my real friends,” Monty toasts, “and real pain for my sham friends.”
Not being a watcher of other Spike Lee movies I can’t comment how 25th Hour compares, but taken on its own terms, it’s a wonderfully performed piece that never talks down to the audience and actually has something meaningful to say.
‘Evolution of an American Filmmaker’ gives a brief background about Lee’s work leading up to 25th Hour, with him explaining that despite the script being written pre 9/11, he decided it would be more realistic to address the effect this had on the city rather than ignore it.
Deleted Scenes include more of the mafia discussing Monty, a nifty montage of the main characters walking around with a camera strapped to their chests commenting about the effect of confidence or ‘Sway’ in everyday life, more of Jacob and Mary at the club and Mary’s death scene (not what you think).
There’s an informative screenwriter’s commentary and best of all, a commentary from Spike Lee himself, who points out such tidbits that he didn’t know Paquin and Hoffman had worked together before, and gives little insights into how he likes to shoot scenes. A decent package for a decent movie.