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  Seraphim Falls The Hunted And The Haunted
Year: 2006
Director: David Von Ancken
Stars: Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Michael Wincott, Xander Berkeley, Ed Lauter, Tom Noonan, Kevin J. O'Connor, John Robinson, Anjelica Huston, Angie Harmon, Robert Baker, Wes Studi, Jimmi Thompson, James Jordan, Nate Mooney, Shannon Zeller
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: 1868 in the Rockies, and one man, Gideon (Pierce Brosnan), is lighting a fire to cook the rabbit he has caught, unaware he is being watched. As he huddles against the cold near his fire, tasting the meat, a gunshot rings out and he is hit in the arm - scrabbling through the snow he makes for the trees and possible safety, hurrying through them towards the river. As he suspects, he is being followed, by Carver (Liam Neeson) who has gathered a posse to track him down - but why?

The reason is not revealed until late on in Seraphim Falls, but you'll have doubtlessly figured out there is some kind of grudge that Carver feels towards Gideon, and you'd be right, yet what you don't know is how jusitfied the hunter is in his pursuit of the hunted, and director David Von Ancken, a television professional making a rare big screen effort, keeps it ambiguous even to the final shot about whether Gideon was truly responsible for the harrowing ordeal that not only occurred years ago, but has lasted to the point we catch up with the story.

It seemed from the nineties and thereafter that movie Westerns were mainly the province of the older movie star, sure there were the odd features in the genre which starred somebody under forty, but mainly they were being made by those actors who grew up with them, and considered a big role in one not only a badge of pride, but an opportunity to live out their childhood dreams. So it was with Neeson and Brosnan, aficionados of the Wild West who positively relished the idea of donning a stetson, grabbing their six gun, narrowing their eyes and heading out West for adventure, although this was on the gritty side.

If anything it recalled those Anthony Mann cult films of the fifties where James Stewart would be on the vengeance trail much as Carver was here, but Von Ancken, although displaying a similar eye for striking scenery, wasn't quite up to the standard. Mainly that was down to the script, which was arranged like a road movie, and apparently designed for the stars to encounter as many Western clich├ęs as they could: here was the Civil War, a railroad gang, a medicine show run by Anjelica Huston, an Indian (Wes Studi) with a wry take on the world, a cabin in the woods where a frontier family lived, all sorts of things you'd seen in the movies countless times before.

It was as if this was a greatest hits of the West, a movie movie rather than something with a strong connection to making observations about the society outside of its cinematic concerns no matter the state of the nation theme for the finale. Within those parameters, Seraphim Falls operated quite nicely, implementing the odd burst of brutality to remind the audience we were watching a landscape where only the most ruthless prospered. With its structure dependent on chase motifs, when the inevitable flashback arrived to explain what it was that Carver was out to get his own back on Gideon for, it verged on the disappointingly pat, a contrivance which had the sole benefit of casting Gideon in a light which made you ponder whether he actually deserved this punishment, not to mention whether Carver needed to eat himself up inside with his overwhelming grudge when none of it would make anything substantially better. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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