Losing a sense of oneself seems to always occur at the most inconvenient of times. Whether it’s because you affected something, or something affected you, the recovery process is never easy. The world can be a tough and unforgiving place and you may be pushed to the extremes if you want to survive. There’s no telling what lays past your comfort zone, but chances are that’s where you’ll end up. That’s life for you.
Russell Blaze (Christian Bale) had worked in the mill all his life. The Sabre went for his father, who now lies on his deathbed because of that same mill. Russell and his younger bother Rodney (Casey Affleck) care for their father, while also leading separate lives. Russell lives with his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana) and Rodney is about to ship odd for a tour in Iraq. One night after drinking, Russell accidentally crashes into a car and kills a woman and her son. He’s sent to jail right before Rodney has to leave, so the two get one last chance to say goodbye.
Some time later, Russell is released and is met by Rodney, who’s finally home. During his time in prison, Lena had moved on and gotten with the town sheriff (Forest Whitaker), and Rodney had begun fighting for money. John Petty (Willem Dafoe), the man who sets up Rodney’s fights, reluctantly agrees to set up a fight in the New Jersey backwoods where Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) rules. When Rodney disappears, Russell must take the law into his own hands to find his brother.
Trailers have almost billed this film as a pseudo-Fight Club meets revenge film. It’s really not that and that may upset or surprise people. The film takes is time to set things up and there’s a lot of great imagery within. This is a film that takes some time to process, as it’s unlike most anything you’ll see this year. Which, as I finally figured out, can be a good and bad thing.
Out of the Furnace is a very character driven film, as a lot of time goes into developing them throughout the film. Christian Bale, as always, gives a stellar performance that will stand among his best work. He becomes his character in mind, body, and spirit, which lends greatly to the film. His character accepts the life he has and it’s enough to get by with. Casey Affleck also gives one of the best performances that I’ve seen from him. His tormented state after serving in Iraq nearly cripples his mind and leads him down all the wrong paths.
Woody Harrelson, who’s more than somewhat insane, was a perfect fit for this film. His demented hillbilly persona is extremely believable and he’s almost frightening in some instances. His odd voice and grotesque mannerisms contrast Bale’s soft – spoken and tactical character. The cinematography gives you a fantastic look at the seemingly plain lives that these two men have. There’s also Stine great commentary in the film about the lives of those who return from war and don’t fit in to society. Affleck’s character could have gone and worked in the mill, but he didn’t want to lead the same plain life that his father led. It’s unfortunate, but that very thing happens more often than it should.
As mentioned earlier, the film takes a while to build the characters and the story. In fact, I’d argue that it takes almost too much time to do so. I found my attention wavering during some of the slower and more quiet scenes. This slow-paced story telling doesn’t blend well when the faster and more aggressive fight sequences come out of nowhere. The balance seems off and just when you start to get excited and sucked back into the movie, it’s all gone in one foul swoop.
More than anything, however, this film is extremely desolate. Outside of the violence and muttering, there’s nothing. The story is a fairly simple one that takes great time to expand upon and the result isn’t entirely satisfying. The depressing look at the lives of these men will make you unsettled and doesn’t leave you feeling great. Forest Whitaker and Zoe Saldana are both underused in the film and Whitaker has one of the weirdest sounding voices I’ve ever heard (which didn’t help his one-dimensional character). It’s a shame, because Bale and Saldana share some beautiful scenes together that give you a sense of hope and happiness. For me and for some, this film just won’t have enough emotion to sustain your interest and enjoyment.
If there’s anything that you can take away with you from Out of the Furnace, it’s more solidification that Bale, Affleck, and Harrelson are some really great actors (Bale especially). The trio’s performances add depth and character to a film that’s missing a lot of emotion. The fighting and violence are stimulating, but it only occurs every so often and doesn’t last long enough to hold your attention. Director Scott Cooper finds similar issues with his film and script that he had with his first film, Crazy Heart. The characters will stay with us, but some of the film will not. Out of the Furnace is a good movie, but it just needs some more oomph to take it to the next level
Out of the Furnace Trailer