Friday, 7 February 2014

Out of the Furnace Review





Out of the Furnace is already contending for this year’s most wrongly marketed film. The trailer shows it more as an action-thriller revolved around revenge but it’s a more a character piece, a film that brings out the best from the actors. Scott Cooper gets the best out of his actors although that’s not hard considering the talent involved: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whittaker, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe. That’s one hell of a cast for an indie film and it’s important that you have these people to embody their complicated characters. Dramatic characters involved with a rough past, getting involved in bad situations but what the trailer explains is only the second to third act. Avoid the trailer if you can.

Christian Bale and Casey Affleck play brothers Russell and Rodney Baze respectively. Russell works at the mill, like their dad before them, working hard and earning a living even though the threat of closure is looming. Rodney is a soldier who has returned from Iraq with PTSD and a refusal to work for a living after sacrificing his sanity for America. Rodney will do anything for money except work a regular job and Russell  is bailing him out of debt constantly. The best character introduction though is Woody Harrelson’s which incidentally opens up the film and sets the tone for it. It’s a terrifying character which is played much more muted than his in Natural Born Killers but similar in their use of vicious violence.

Back to the performances, they all have to be appreciated because of how they enrich the characters. You can tell how enriched they are by Christian Bale making Scott Cooper promise to not make this film until his schedule freed up and also by how Leonardo DiCaprio was originally attached to star but ended up producing. All of these people ensure quality when they have their name attached which is why it is a shame that this was underseen over in America. Christian Bale plays the loyal brother who goes through difficulty and hardship with a nuanced, mature performance that has a couple of moments that will raise a lump in your throat; Casey Affleck is outstanding as the younger, traumatised brother; Woody Harrelson as the violent Jersey boy with no remorse; Willem Dafoe as a guy who has got himself into more than he can handle; Zoe Saldana as Russell’s girlfriend but it’s more complicated than that; and Forest Whittaker as an honest policeman caught by jurisdiction issues.

Aided by the subtle direction of Scott Cooper, it never calls attention to time lapses or other flashy tricks it could have easily adopted. He’s chosen to concentrate on the actors and their performance, lighting them so well with cinematography by Masanobu Takayanagi (Silver Linings Playbook, The Grey, Warrior) that aids the darkness and emotions of the film. You can’t ignore the writing done by Brad Ingelsby as well as Scott Cooper’s. They’ve created densely, layered characters in a story that spans a few years in its sombre pacing. Out of the Furnace is a well crafted film that is grossly missold as a straight up action-thriller when it is a clever character driven, atmospheric ensemble piece. You can’t go wrong when the actors really embody their characters like they do here.

★★