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25th Hour
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I went to see the new Spike Lee film (or "joint") starring Ed Norton yesterday.

It concerned the story of a drug dealer's last night before having to report to prison for seven years to serve a felony conviction.

I liked the film overall, but had a problem with this conceit. They never explained why he hadn't been taken into custody immediately upon conviction, and I was under the understanding that that's the way things worked. Ah well. I pretty much let that slide and went with it.

The acting was excellent, but I actually thought the direction was excessive and over-styled at times, distracting from the story. Lee used some sort of double-cutting technique where you see the same action twice. It's often used in action films, where one guy will punch another guy, and then you'll see the same punch again, to accentuate the action. Anyway, Lee used it here, many times, and it came across more as cheap student film gimmick more than an interesting stylistic choice.

I always hate when a filmmaker does something that's supposed to be clever, be instead pulls me out of the story to notice the "skill" of the director. Most of the time, as in writing, skill comes from not being noticed, but in allowing the audience to be absorbed into the story.

Same thing with music. At times in the film, music was integrated effectively into the scene. At other times, it was overly melodramatic and distracting.

I went to see the film with Jill, and we also disagreed about the handling of 9/11 in the film. I think it's important to mention 9/11 in a post-9/11 film set in New York, but Lee went overboard, opening the film with shots of the twin light beams that temporarily replaced the towers and including an extended scene showing the wreckage being cleaned up. References would have fit in smoothly, but focusing on it, when it seemed to me to have little to do directly with the story or its themes, seemed gratuitous. Jill disagreed, and no doubt there are others who would too.

Anyway, like I said, the film was well-acted, and I enjoyed it, but it was extremely bleak. There were really no redeeming characters in the film. All of them (his friends, his girlfriend, his father, and of course the drug dealer himself) were all tragic in their own ways.

The movie also used a lot of flashforwards and flashbacks, and in fact the ending was a faux flashforward, a "what might have been", making the tragedy in the film seem even more tragic. The film was especially bleak in this aspect, as if to say: We have all these naive fantasies about a better life, but in the end it never works out that way, because most of us are too weak, instead making choices out of selfish impulses, doing what feels good instead of what's right.

So it was a good film overall. But after seeing it, The Pianist, and About Schmidt three weekends in a row, I may just need to see something light-hearted and stupid.

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