Out of the Furnace
Out of the Furnace is a much slower paced film than that which spends the most part of the film developing the characters and their stories well before the act of revenge, calling it a simple revenge film is quite the injustice.
The film is directed and co-written by Scott Cooper, who adapted and directed Crazy Heart, and stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe. That's a great line-up of acting talent and they all give great performances but Bale is the overriding talent on screen.
The film has a great pace to it, particularly early on. It delivers the story slowly, in a very considered manner, spending time in the scenes and on the characters. While some might construe this to mean the film is slow, far from it, for it's here we get some of the best scenes and it's here where the power of the film is built from and the strength of the performances lie.
As it turns out the revenge portion of the film is much smaller than the marketing might have you believe, and I can see some people being a little confused as to why the revenge is taking so long to play out. Again though, let me stress that this is all for the better of the film, it superbly builds tension and connects you with the characters through their stories rather than racing you into bloody, stylised action.
When the revenge does arrive, there is almost a feeling that we're going to be let down as it appears that we're heading towards all too familiar territory. This is brought about because the rest of the film has been so strong with the story and performances alike. However this isn't the case and as you think you see the familiar the film takes a breath, steadies, and delivers some nice little twists to the final act. It manages to keep that steady and considered pace going even during the more frantic moments.
Due to all the character and plot development earlier on in the film we get an ending with much more impact and power. You really feel the emotion of these moments and what hinges on them for the characters unlike so many other films in this genre that concentrate more on the action element.
The film is extremely well written and to see evidence of that you just have to see how the scene plays out on the bridge between Russell, Christian Bale's character, and Lena, Zoe Saldana's character. This totally ignores the convention of such scenes and looks to the reality of the characters to see what they would do in the situation, regardless of what the standard cinematic characters would do. The decisions of the characters are surprisingly refreshing and fit well with their personalities and the story, bringing you even closer to them.
There are other scenes like this such as the meetings between Chief Wesley Barnes, Forest Whitaker's character, and Russell. When Bale first receives the news from the policeman his reaction is painfully real and honest, and when they are in his house later in a more social setting there is an awkwardness that you can feel and understand without the need for explanations.
The other side of the strong writing are the fantastic performances which deliver those lines so well and make the characters feel so accessible. Zoe Saldana is very good, as are Woody Harrelson, Whitaker and Willem Dafoe, the problem is that the these latterly named actors are so woefully underused and we don't see nearly enough of them, enough of them for the story but not to see these excellent actors in these very strongly conceived and written roles.
Saldana and Bale are natural on screen and it's Bale who leads the film with his excellent performance. He is utterly convincing and captures your emotions and imagination completely, you believe in his character and all the decisions he makes, none of his or the plot's turns feel they are pushing against who he is. Together the cast are fantastic and they develop strong bonds between them for the audience in such a short space of time.
The script and performances are backed by strong direction, cinematography and score. All of which really help build the tension and draw the audience into the world of these characters. That tension builds from an early and helps create a feeling of dread for some key scenes, it also keeps pace with the film's considering style rather than racing you forwards. You could feel the ending coming from some way off and a few false starts manage to build the audience up a little and relax them before the final scenes. I found that it was all very well assembled and each of the elements were not only excellently paced but also well-crafted together.
Out of the Furnace is a strong, character driven film which really does manage to make a connection with the audience through the characters and their relationships. There aren't any clichéd moments that fail to deliver or push you away from the film instead the characters and their situations are written with far more realism than I've felt for some time.
Not only that but Christian Bale delivers another effortless and career high performance that is fantastic to watch. He doesn't have even the slightest of expressions out of place, he's nigh on perfect in the role and his performance is definitely award worthy.
There's a superb supporting cast with Bale who just elevate the quality of the film as well as allow the relationships with characters around him to reach the level his performance is delivering. They are all supported by the fantastic script written by Brad Ingelsby and Scott Cooper which gives these characters such richness and believability.
Then there are the rich visuals and locations which continue to add depth to the reality of the story, and combined with the cinematography and score we end up with a wonderful film with powerful performances that manage to grab hold of you and draw you right into their stories. It builds tension well through the considered pacing of the storytelling which ends up delivering a powerful and emotional ending.