"You had it all, and you threw it away"
How do you know a sophisticated filmmaker? To me, it's all about choices. Anybody can make "interesting" choices. And anybody that's been in the business will know what the "safe" choices are. The trick is knowing when to make the interesting choices, and when to hold back.
In 25th Hour, Spike Lee directs a stable of veteran talent, including Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Brian Cox, and Anna Paquin.
Monty Brogan (Norton) is going to prison in the morning, for his drug dealing ways. It's his last day, and we follow him and his friends through the difficult night. His live-in girlfriend Naturelle (Dawson) is frustrated because she cannot connect with Monty - something is going unspoken between them, and it's getting in the way. Jacob (Hoffman) is a trust-funded teacher, struggling with his desires for one of his underage students (Paquin). And then there's Frank, Monty's oldest friend, an overly self-confident fund manager who is pissed that Monty never wised up.
Everyone walks through morally suspect territory, each dealing with it in their own way. The film doesn't push an agenda - there barely seem to be any strong conclusions at the end, merely that tough situations make for tough decisions.
Lee defines a striking cinematic language for the film. This includes a stuttering technique punctuating certain moments, reminiscent of what Woody Allen did in Deconstructing Harry (Lee is mainly "stuttering" between shots, while Allen stays within the same angle). The effect isn't subtle, but like a slap in the face, fitting for this kind of film. The risk of such a choice is distracting the audience. With the strength of these characters, that should only be a risk for those off their Ritalin.
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