DVD Review
25th Hour
25th Hour poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published June 5, 2003
US Release: December 19, 2002

Directed by: Spike Lee
Starring: Edward Norton , Rosario Dawson , Philip Seymour Hoffman , Barry Pepper

R for strong language and some violence.
Running Time: 134 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $13,061,000
A-
3 of 142
An unforgettable experience
There are films that you can walk into one day and sort of forget about the next day. There are films that may stay in your mind for a week or two, but eventually it is no big deal.

And then there is something like 25th Hour, which is extremely powerful and will keep inside your head for quite a while. This was the first film of Spike Lee?s that I?ve seen, and all I hope is that some of his other works (if not all) are just as fantastic. 25th Hour grabbed me from the opening scene and refused to let go until the climax, which alone induced a reaction of its own. The film is not for everyone, but for those who admire when a picture contains thought, meaning, and quality at about every corner of its route the movie sells and delivers.
The film takes place on the last day of Monty Brogan?s (Edward Norton) freedom before he heads off to a seven-year jail sentence. He has been caught for holding a stash of drugs in his apartment and has been supposedly ratted on by someone else, as the DEA guys know exactly where to locate the substance. His girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), is a little frustrated at their distant relationship that day as he is engaged in a very quiet, reserved state. That night, his buddies have planned a going away party for him, which involves Frank Slaughtery (Barry Pepper), a Wall Street fast-talking smooth guy, along with Jakob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a high school English teacher.

25th Hour wouldn?t work unless we favored our protagonist, Monty. And whether or not he may be a protagonist could be a reasonable argument to engage in after viewing the picture, but for me the process of accepting Monty as a friend and likeable character was very rapid. The movie opens with a device where we?re either going to accept him at first or consider it a weak ploy for character admiring. The opening involves Monty saving a dog that has just been almost beaten to death on the streets. The persona saves the puppy and brings him in as almost a son of his own.

The dog itself could be implying a metaphor for the innocence held as a puppy and that nothing serious ever goes wrong in the day-in and day-out of being one. But also, it could point toward that dogs themselves have a limited living span, as our main character is coping with the possibility that he may not survive prison. The problem with a movie like 25th Hour is that if the viewer is not willing to accept the opening scene as a way of admiration, there could be a dilemma in the overall enjoyment of the film. For me, observing Monty gave off the pretty evident sign that he?s a good guy and means well. He screwed up, but point to someone who hasn?t in reality.

Director Spike Lee did a really exceptional job of making the viewer feel as if that day was the last time we had of pure freedom. I couldn?t figure out if I was the only one sensing this claustrophobic feeling or the silence cueing to loneliness that glares in many of the film?s sequences, but this element was performed with high points. The cinematography greatly aids in this process, as this execution really got me thinking of what it would be like to experience the motions one would experience knowing that their life?s future may be being placed into jeopardy.

While Edward Norton really dives into this performance really, really well, I felt the performance of the movie was Barry Pepper, who I?ve never really had the opportunity to see carry somewhat of a bigger part. I knew he had an acting ability from The Green Mile, but not until this movie did his true talent really ring true. Not only does he actually shed what looks like real tears in a scene, but we really get the feel that he?s the best friend of both guys (Monty and Jakob) in the story.

From the beginning moments of the movie as the fast-talking, fast-moving agent with full adrenaline rushing, Pepper nails the role as Frank with absolute fire. He almost has the look of a salesman who would go at all costs to get a customer to buy a product, but deep down has a heart and rings true.

I may be a bit biased toward Philip Seymour Hoffman simply because I really dig his talent, but I enjoyed his presence along with his character every step of the way. His character, Jakob, comes off as the rather stiff-natured English teacher who lacks social skills but has a crush on a current seventeen-year old student (of his) named Mary (Anna Paquin). Hoffman?s role sprung a memory or two from his Boogie Nights performance, but the real heart of the delivery is not as perverted despite that some of the sexual desperation is still lingering; we realize he?s a good guy, but has a few bugs that need tweaking. Like Monty, who doesn?t have their share of flaws? I?m yet to see Love Liza, which has been said to be a breakthrough for Hoffman, but I?m anxious to.

The script to 25th Hour is one of its largest points, as via the dialogue between Frank and Jakob, the audience really gets the sense that we?re not just watching a film but a situation that can really take place in the reality of the world. These are two good buddies who greatly care for their best friend, but still hold a bit of discontentment toward Monty?s big screw-up.

Through the combination of the extremely clear direction, the script, acting, and the closed-in and nervous cinematography, the audience is placed into the internal world of Monty for one day. We feel the anxiety that he is witnessing and the possibility that he may not ever sit in his apartment or hang out and drink with his two friends ever again. He wants to maintain hope, but cannot resist from the everlasting feeling that he just may not make it through it all.

I think if any of us were placed into the real shoes of Monty, we too would go through a great sense of danger and unease. Who wants to go to prison? None of us, but some decisions can lead to that route; and it?s when the decision made can be easily regretful but forever unchangeable that can be the ever so long torturous and unbearable feeling. Our main character has made a mistake, but cannot alter the fact that by the twenty-fifth hour he?s behind bars. The filmmaking applied to this concept is almost along the lines of brilliancy, as if it weren?t, the film would not work to the same fantastic effect.

25th Hour can be a very significant emotional experience depending on your involvement in the overall story and setting. If you part with the characters the movie will very presumably work for you. The film has a depressing edge to it that can turn off rather normal moviegoers looking for pure entertainment or enjoyment, but should please those filmgoers who look for something more in a production than a "good old time." It?s special in that takes the viewer and prompts them with various moral questions and asks the audience what they themselves would do in a relevant situation.

One of my only complaints in the movie was that the girlfriend of Monty?s (side of the story) is a little underdeveloped, but as for a film in a general view I was extremely pleased. 25th Hour is one of the best films to be released in 2002; and if you like the actors involved and have the willingness to insert your presence into the story and almost forget that it?s a film, 25th Hour can be an unforgettable experience.

DVD Features:
- Deleted scenes
- Audio commentary w/ director Spike Lee
- Audio commentary w/ writer David Benioff
- 'The Evolution of an American Filmmaker' Featurette
- 'Ground Zero' - A Tribute
- Widescreen

Audio Features:
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
- THX certified
- French language track
Lee's Grade: A-
Ranked #3 of 142 between Festival in Cannes (#2) and Punch-Drunk Love (#4) for 2002 movies.
Lee's Overall Grading: 2698 graded movies
A0.4%
B30.7%
C61.2%
D7.7%
F0.0%
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