Review by Paul Stathakis | 2002

Things to do before going away

The events of September 11 have shattered and changed the world. They have changed the world in such a way that people look at others differently, now more than ever, and ultimately judge them by their ethnicity. People around the world have different opinions and beliefs and they view situations from different angles. Even Hollywood feels the need to break through and comment on America and its present condition. In fact, “25th Hour” is Spike Lee’s most controversial film to date. Lee shares his views with audiences and they are quite brutal. They are also direct and shocking. But he cleverly attaches a story with his message.

Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) has twenty-four hours to decide how to spend his last day of freedom before starting a seven-year prison term. That won’t be easy, because Monty has to divide his remaining time between his two best friends, Frank and Jacob, his father, and his girlfriend.

Frank (Barry Pepper) is an investment banker who acts tough and cool but is really quite sensitive. Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a high school English teacher who believes one of his students (Anna Paquin) would like a closer relationship with him. I respected Pepper before this film, but now appreciate him even more. He has a prominent role and gives such a realistic performance you actually believe that he and Monty are best friends. The same goes for Hoffman. Hoffman is a special actor. He is known for playing emotionally challenged characters and this movie is no exception. Both friends don’t know how to deal with the fact that there friend is on his way to prison.

“25th Hour” is Spike Lee’s touching tribute to New York. There is always a small element, present in the film, which reminds us of 9/11. Frank’s apartment overlooks the spot where the World Trade Center once stood. Lee focuses on workers who are seen gathering the remaining debris of the buildings. Jacob even wears a New York Yankees cap. It all adds up. Jacob asks Frank what they should say to Monty and Frank answers, “He’s going to hell for seven years. What are we going to do? Wish him good luck?”

Monty’s father, James Brogan, is played by Brian Cox. James operates a little bar, which pays tribute to the firefighters who gave their lives on September 11. Cox is a warming actor, who is incredibly natural. Cast in a minimal role here, he makes the best out his role and becomes an important part of the movie.

Throughout the film, Monty keeps wondering who could’ve ratted him out and told the drug inspectors where to find cocaine in his apartment. The one person he suspects most is his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson). She appears to be sweet and loving, but is that who she really is? Is she still the same innocent teenager that Monty fell in love with? Can she be trusted? Who can?

All characters have histories and these actors play ones with dark pasts. They feel regret and guilt concerning Monty’s departure. This is something that makes the “25th Hour” more solid and memorable. Spike Lee never reveals too much in his trailers, because he saves the best for the screening. “25th Hour” is a film anyone will hold close to their hearts. It’s a little too melodramatic at times and certain scenes just don’t blend in with the rest. But, in the end, it pays off is so many ways. So, what will Monty do? Will he pack his bags and flee? Or will he face prison life? These were questions I asked myself before watching the “25th Hour”. I got my answers. “You cannot stop New York” reads a sign in the movie. Same goes for Spike Lee. No one can stop him from producing quality films.

 

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