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25th Hour

October 26, 2013

25th Hour (2003)
Director: Spike Lee
Actors: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper

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Synopsis: Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) is experiencing his last day of freedom before a seven-year jail sentence for possession of drugs. He has various loose ends to tie up: saying goodbye to his father and friends, getting someone to look after his dog, finding out who dobbed him in to the police, and deciding whether he’s even going to show up for his sentence anyway.

Review: This intriguing, sprawling, ecletic work from Spike Lee in a sense has more going for it in the ragged fringes of its story than in its slightly awkward, pre-determined centre. I found it at times to be very funny, moving and humane – especially in the depiction of Monty’s friends Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Francis (Barry Pepper), and I particularly liked Francis’ wicked repartee with his colleagues while working in a Wall Street office, and the humorous subplot involving Jacob and a Lolita-esque student of his who he bumps into in a nightclub.

Some of Lee’s attempts to ‘mythologise’ Monty’s last day of freedom are a touch odious – especially with the over-the-top musical score and the attempt to give Monty’s seven years in jail perhaps a touch more of an ‘apocalyptic’ feel than it would be in reality. Also, with nearly ten years’ perspective, the 9/11 symbolism/referencing is a touch portentous, although it’s easy to forget just how traumatic and how different everyone thought the world would be in the weeks and months after the attacks. As for Lee’s two famous stylistic flourishes here – the Monty mirror rant and the closing ‘fantasy’ sequence of a potential flight from jail – I actually like the rant as it appropriates the urban rage and self-delusion that Monty suffers from, although the fantasy sequence seems a slightly pretentious means of articulating what is a fairly obvious sentiment – that Monty imagines what life might be like if he absconded from his jail sentence. (October 2013)

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