The Brave One
directed by Neil Jordan
(Warner, 2007)

The Brave One, directed by Neil Jordan, stars Jodie Foster as Erica Bain, a radio DJ who, along with her fiance David (Naveen Andrews), is brutally attacked in a New York City park. In an attempt to cope with the resulting death of David and the all-consuming fear that plagues her, Erica morphs into a desperate woman seeking revenge against the city's criminals. However, complications ensue when the city is torn between praising and condemning its new vigilante, and Detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard) has the controversial responsibility of bringing her to justice.

The advertising for this film is shamelessly deceiving, but in the most beneficial of ways. I expected a cheap suspense movie that had all of the usual cliches and stereotypical characters. Instead, it turned out to be something else entirely. It is not an "easy" movie; it unexpectedly challenges the viewer for this particular film genre. We're forced to search the confines of our own morality and decide, if put to the ultimate test, what choice would we make? Adding to the depth of the film, Erica Bain isn't the typical loud-mouthed, pop music-playing DJ. She is the host of a poignant radio show called "Street Walk" in which she strolls along the streets of New York reflecting out loud on life and her love of the city itself. However, "Street Walk" transforms into the greatest irony of the film when she uses it to speak out about the paralyzing fear she feels when simply strolling down a city block.

Erica's metamorphosis is not a black-and-white matter. The path of vengeance that she takes does not seem premeditated. She is simply a woman looking for a way to survive, a way to live life ... any life. So she buys a gun for protection and, at first, seems to be thrown against her will into situations that lead to murder at her hands. Suddenly she has found a purpose; she has found a way to salvage her reason for existence that was literally beaten out of her. As an audience we are taken on a ride that focuses more on emotional ups and downs than physical ones, which is a bit contradictory of action/suspense films. We want her to prevail, but at the same time we are begging her to stop, and our pleas don't come from the purest of intentions. There is a dynamic relationship struck up between Erica and Mercer that is undeniable, and that is when we decide it's time to throw in the towel. Foster makes Erica so accessible that her happiness becomes all that we care about, whether it is through bloody revenge or a newfound soulmate. I will be the first to say that relationships like this between characters in this particular film genre is entirely overused, but for the sake of appeasing box office sales let's move on.

My favorite aspect of this film is the way in which director Jordan brings the scene of the attack on Erica and David to a whole new level of intensity while simultaneously adding more depth to the lovers' relationship. He purposely films Erica with only a fuzzy and distorted hand-held camera, and David with the clarity of a standard 16-millimeter movie camera so they become torn apart, completely isolated from one another on the screen as well as in the script. But as they are rushed to the hospital, flashes of the couple passionately making love capture them in two of their most vulnerable states -- ecstasy and tragedy, and in this way they are eternally united. The realism of the relationship between Erica and David is unmistakable even though we only witness it for the first 10 minutes of the film. Their characters were excellently cast, and Foster and Andrews are an unexpected, but perfect fit. I give immense amounts of credit to Jordan for his unique and fascinating way of utilizing the little screen time the lovers shared together.

The script isn't necessarily groundbreaking and please don't expect too many oohs and ahhs from the audience around you, but The Brave One brings certain intensely beautiful and thought-provoking elements to the screen. When a film that seems underrated from the word "go" surprises your set expectations, it is always worth sitting down and enjoying the attempt at raising the bar just a little bit higher.

review by
Molly Ebert

6 June 2009

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