“Therein lies the defect of revenge: It’s all in the anticipation; the thing itself is a pain, not a pleasure; at least the pain is the biggest end of it.” - Mark Twain
At the weekend we watched a good movie, one of those “new-fashioned Westerns” some of which have been done rather well in the last couple of decades. It was the David Von Ancken 2006 film “Seraphim Falls” starring Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson and Anjelica Huston.
The plot centres on two Civil War veterans, Carver (Neeson) and Gideon (Brosnan) the former bent on revenge, the latter on survival. It is set in the 1860s, with Carver and his four hired killers tracking Gideon across Nevada for more than two weeks. When they manage to shoot Gideon and wound him, they think this is the end of the game, but Gideon survives and gets away. The pursuit continues but the hunted man is intelligent, resourceful, tough, fit and skilled with a knife. The film follows Gideon’s flight and his hunt by Carver across the punishing terrain and the risky encounters they have along the way with a number of other people. We don’t know what the reason for Carver’s hunt is and what actually happened at Seraphim Falls. However, all is explained at the end!
As initially we are unaware of what the reason for the manhunt is, it is difficult to sympathise with either of the characters. My initial reaction was to be on Gideon’s side, seeing how he was being hunted by five men and he was being shot at. Carver made a pretty formidable “Javert” and I am a sucker for supporting the underdog. However, as the movie progressed, it became quite clear that Gideon was no angel and if Carver was pursuing him there must have been some pretty good reasons for him doing so. When all is revealed it is an extremely powerful and gut-wrenching scene and one feels quite benumbed.
This is not a film for the typical Western fan as it is not the formulaic one with a plot centred on shootouts between “good guys” and “bad guys”. The encounters that Carver and Gideon have with other characters in the film become more and more bizarre as the film progresses, until the final two meetings which are quite allegorical, the last one being surreal, bordering on the supernatural. This is also something that the typical Western fan may not appreciate. Perhaps the film may best be described as a psychological thriller, but the themes are quite deep: Loss, revenge, war, violence, crime and punishment, redemption.
Both Brosnan and Neeson act extremely well and while their lines may be sparse, their faces do the acting. Anjelica Huston has an interesting cameo, looking very much like a female Mephistopheles, which no doubt was the intention… Angie Harmon looks lovely in another cameo role. The cinematography by John Toll is quite spectacular and the locales are amazing, ranging from snow-capped mountains and forests to arid wastelands of desert landscape. The music by Harry Gregson-Williams is excellent and although it dresses the action aptly and well, it never interferes with it. The film is quite long, but kept us engaged and interested throughout.
There are some violent scenes within it and the squeamish may actually flinch, however, these scenes are an integral part of the plot. I had no issue with the explicit violence in this case, it was rather the implicit violence that was quite upsetting and the scenes towards the end when all is explained are quite shocking. The movie was overall very satisfying and well worth watching. We recommend it to all who enjoy a good action drama and a psychological thriller.