Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Pierce Brosnan, Director David Von Ancken And Michael Hanan; Behind The Scenes Of Seraphim Falls; Icon Films Trailer Reel.
IT’S been a long time since the Western thrived as a film genre. But even though you can generally count on the fingers of one hand the number of new cowboy movies in a year, attempts at a revival are almost always worth catching.
Seraphim Falls, the latest, is another fine attempt that draws on many classic values and boasts two fine leading performances from Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson. Sadly, what starts out as a raw, often brutal chase movie does eventually drag its feet as it reaches a strangely surreal finale.
At the end of the American Civil War, veteran Colonel Morsman Carver (Neeson) undertakes one final mission: to kill a man named Gideon (Brosnan).
Rounding up a posse to do so, he pursues his quarry across some rugged terrain, beginning in snowy alpine forests and ending in the desert where the sins of both hunter and hunted finally take their toll.
Directed by TV veteran David Von Ancken (CSI: New York and Cold Case), the film is at its best early on when it deliberately plays its cards close to its chest. Viewers are never quite sure who’s good or bad, as each man’s motivations remain a closely guarded secret.
Instead, audiences are left to marvel at the breathtaking natural scenery that lends the chase such an unforgiving backdrop. As captured by John Toll (who worked on Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line), the environment becomes as much of a character as the veterans themselves, constantly delivering a new set of challenges for both.
As such, the actors are really put through their paces with Brosnan especially having to juggle the challenges of the terrain with the fact that he’s often acting alone. He rises to the challenge, however, expertly conveying the mounting desperation of Gideon’s predicament and further moving away from the suave sophistication of his 007/Thomas Crown personas.
Neeson, on the other hand, is every bit as compelling as the fiercely determined posse leader, forced to resort to increasingly desperate measures to keep his hired guns – including Michael Wincott and John Robinson – loyal and his enemy within sight.
Western buffs should also enjoy Von Ancken’s numerous nods to the raw, uncompromising style of Sam Peckinpah and classic movies such as Will Penny, The Searchers and, most notably, Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales.
It’s just a shame that the film loses its way during a prolonged conclusion when events meander into the mystical and threaten to come over all touchy feely. The presence of Angelica Huston and Wes Studi is particularly baffling and adds nothing to the journey, while the resolution fails to provide the lasting impact that audiences may have felt was coming.
Rather, it applies a pedestrian finish to an otherwise thrilling chase movie that nevertheless boasts strong appeal to Western enthusiasts.
Running time: 1hr 50mins
DVD Release Date: December 26, 2007