25th Hour


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

25th Hour
"No filmmaker since Woody Allen has loved New York like this, but Lee is prepared to show it in all its stark ugliness."

This latest offering from Spike Lee lacks the intensity of his finest work, but is nevertheless a compelling portrait of the final day of a man about to be incarcerated for seven years. Edward Norton is suitably understated in the central role, believable as somebody who has spent much of his life letting others take the wheel, or at least pretending that's what he's been doing.

Lee has fun parading his leading men through a couple of Fight Club scenes far pithier and darker than anything Chuck Palahniuk has written. This is part of his tribute to New York and his comment on the agony with which the injured city struggles to come to terms with itself. No filmmaker since Woody Allen has loved New York like this, but Lee is prepared to show it in all its stark ugliness. Perhaps an uglier city has a better chance of surviving, as our hero hopes that a few facial injuries might make his first day inside a little easier.

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Stacked around Norton's performance are a host of charismatic cameos, with Brian Cox stealing the show as a man who has already suffered the loss of his wife and would do anything to save his son. Rosario Dawson does a good job with the difficult role of the girlfriend getting ready to be left behind, with very limited room to express herself. Anna Paquin, once again enjoying the sort of meaty role scarcely ever written for girls her age, is excellent as the overconfident and vulnerable teenager getting out of her depth in the confused adult world; her vivacious innocence provides a vital contrast to the unseen brutality around her as our hero and his friends wrestle with their fears and assorted gangsters try to find out who grassed on him in the first place.

There is some potent violence in this film, but it's never allowed to overwhelm the psychological drama. Lee's politics are visible as always, but this is a surprisingly gentle, mature film. The open ending illustrates that, more than anything else, this is a film about possibility; about keeping possibilities open, and not squandering the good things we have. If the worst happens, there's nothing we can do. It has to be the meantime that matters.

By no means the action-packed revelatory drama suggested by some of its trailers, 25th Hour is richer and cleverer and packed full of humour which makes it all the more moving. It is a film about trust, intimacy, and facing up to responsibility for one's own actions. An eclectic soundtrack and bold camerawork make this as pleasing to the senses as to the intellect. Lee never seems like a tourist, but can successfully penetrate a range of subcultures and different social circles, describing each in an involving and sympathetic way. There's plenty here to enjoy and to learn from on a variety of levels, making for a very satisfying film.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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25th Hour packshot
A drug dealer Edward Norton has 24 hours to make amends with his high school buddies.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2

Director: Spike Lee

Writer: David Benioff, based on the novel by David Benioff

Starring: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tony Siragusa, Levan Uchaneishvili, Tony Devon, Misha Kuznetsov, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Michael Genet, Patrice O'Neal, Al Palagonia, Aaron Stanford

Year: 2002

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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