Seraphim Falls (2006)
“Never turn your back on the past.”
Director: David Von Ancken
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Anjelica Huston
Synopsis: At the end of the Civil War, a colonel hunts down a man with whom he has a grudge.
Seraphim Falls is one of those movies that tricks you into thinking you’re watching one kind of movie when in fact you’re watching an entirely different kind. What begins as a straightforward revenge/chase movie set in the post-Civil War US eventually mutates into this metaphysical contemplation of the natures of its two lead characters, complete with the physical incarnation of the Devil as a comely seller of tonics (Angelica Huston – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 50/50) plying her trade in the middle of a desert. The film opens in freezing, snow-covered hills and ends in the searing heat of that desert, symbolising the two men’s inexorable descent into hell.
Liam Neeson (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Non-Stop) is the man obsessed with catching Pierce Brosnan (The World’s End), the former Union officer he holds responsible for the deaths of his wife and children. He pursues his quarry with an unswerving single-mindedness, and will commit any act to succeed his aim. He’s ostensibly the good guy, but you wouldn’t really want him on your side. He’s a little too focused, and too easily considers those around him dispensable. Conversely, Brosnan’s character comes across as an intelligent, resourceful man who is equally adept at doing whatever is necessary – only he does so in order to stay alive in the face of Neeson’s onslaught. There’s not much dialogue – it could almost be a silent movie – but it doesn’t weaken Seraphim Falls; in fact, the protracted silences serve to focus the audience’s attention on the moral conundrum raised by the storyline. That tilt into the near-surreal as the chase is reduced to a crawl in the depths of the desert is something of a wrench, though. It pulls you out of the movie, and forces you to re-evaluate what’s gone before. Not in a particularly good way, either…
(Reviewed 17th November 2014)