Sunday, December 2, 2007

Eastern Promises (2007, David Cronenberg)

David Cronenberg's latest is yet another excellent film from the often odd mind of his. Now, after A History of Violence and Eastern Promises Cronenberg seems to be going a little bit commercial in terms of stories and genres. However, his past 2 films are anything but commercial films and the execution of both films really show that Cronenberg will never stop being an auteur and will never stop challenging his audiences. In other words; he wont be selling out anytime soon.

Eastern Promises is a very cold, brutal, and understated film. I can see why it got a couple of bad reactions from people because of this. However, Cronenberg's films have never been the kind that you want to cuddle up with. They are far from that, really.

Cronenberg this time presents us with a dark thriller with characters that we really don't get to know in a conventional sense. Instead, Cronenberg places them at a far distance and slowly pulls us in and the more he pulls us in the more we get to know the world that these characters live in. By getting to know this dark underground world we begin to understand and "know" the lives these characters live. They remain complex and because of this we are often times left with subtle hints to give you a clue to how these characters really are. This whole method of presenting all of these characters in this way is through Naomi Watts character as she stumbles into this dark world through a naive and innocent action. The more she falls into the world, the more the world and it's characters that live in it come to surface. It's some great stuff to watch and to experiences as everything becomes more clear and more things begin to surface.

So, whenever Cronenberg is not having fun with these characters we also get some truly stellar scenes. The now infamous naked bathhouse brawl is one of the greatest scenes from this year and offers more intensity than most films do as a whole. Apart from these stand out scene swe are also presented with enough low key scenes that feature interactions between characters that when you think back on them they also stand out in your memory and make the film as rich as it is.

Another aspect worth pointing out are the performances by Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassel (a new favorite of mine). Sure, everyone else gives some great performances, but these two just make the film as great as it is. Once again, these are two performances which also sadly be overlooked now during awards season. A true shame.

When I was talking to my friend Dan about the film he nailed right on the head when he told me that it reminded him of something that Scorsese would have done earlier in his career. This is a great comparison in the sense that Cronenberg has created a genre film that has so much subtle detail, a fantastic execution, and complex characters that it really rises from just being a genre film. It becomes a film that is interested more in the men behind these corrupt and violent acts than it is in the acts themselves. It's this simple aspect which puts films like this one and Scorsese earlier works in a league of their own.

This is one of my favorites of the year and another grand achievement by David Cronenberg and everyone else involved. I loved it.

- A

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