Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE - Best film of 2005

This review is posted by guest reviewer, Nik, who can usually be found here......

David Cronenberg's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is without doubt the best film of the year 2005. It combines suspense, a wonderful but not overly complicated plot, absolutely outstanding acting, good production values and sparing but sensitive dialogue. I seem to have developed a recent reputation for the cynical panning of seemingly worthy movies, especially in my criticism of Woody Allen's underwhelming MATCH POINT, so such a ringing endorsement of a film should rightly been considered exceptional from my pen.

Let's start with the acting. Viggo Mortensen, best known as Aragorn, is brilliant as the mild-mannered Tom Stall. His performance only improves as the plot continues to thicken, and Stall's character takes on new dimensions as his past is revealed. His wife, Edie Stall, played by Maria Bello, is utterly convincing as the small town sweetheart whose life gets turned upside down by the bloody attempted robbery of her husband's cafe-diner. However, it is their performance together as husband and wife that is particularly noteworthy - and especially in a memorable sex scene of such vivid and captivating realism that I was actually embarassed to watch. Their relationship is central to the plot - and so strongly acted as to totally immerse the viewer.

The male and female lead are equally well supported by the psychotic-looking Carl Foggarty, played by Ed Harris - who excels in his role as villain - and Ashton Holmes as Jack Stall - son to Tom and Edie and victim of schoolyard bullying. The way that Holmes handles the character development of Jack - and the way that development is juxtaposed with that of his father - is masterful and shows immense promise for a young actor.

Next, the plot and dialogue both pull off the trick of being hugely powerful but quietly understated at the same time. Whereas many modern movies attempt to compensate for a lack of originality through overly-complex plot or timelines, and sharp, witty dialogue - A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE relies on a fairly simple plot, realistically acted and developed, with dialogue that says enough but not too much, and action in proportions that are strictly necessary. That's not to say it's boring - it's never that - rather the relationships between the characters, and the dark history that the film unfolds sustains an incredible tension in the audience. Noone was talking during this one - you could have heard a pin drop - and that made the action, when it came, all the more thrilling.

Finally, the film is wonderfully shot - the camera gets it just right in every scene - capturing the expression, the mood, the feeling of the moment perfectly. The locations are spot on - and it goes to show that you don't need millions of dollars and endless special effects to make a great movie. It makes such a refreshing change to see a Hollywood picture reject explosions, gun fights and CGI and get back to the basics of capable acting and strong characterisation. It's not a thrill a minute, that's for sure - and the kids won't understand it until they're older - but you get plenty of bang for you buck.

If you've yet to see a HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, look it up right now, and beg, steal or borrow whatever you need to get to your local cineplex and hire a seat. Perhaps I'm just a member of the hysterical conservative right, but this is a truly worthy film, and it saddens me that it will be passed over for awards in favour of lesser films that just happen to be about homosexuals.
It's okay to be gay, but it doesn't mean you deserve an Oscar - and anyway, it's better to be violent.

HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is still playing in a few cineplexes but is also available of Region 1 DVD. It is released on Region 2 DVD on March 27th 2006.


  1. I concur with Nik's review in every point bar the title. While A History of Violence is certainly *one* of my best films of 2005, it it ties with the equally brilliant KUNG FU HUSTLE, 3 NEEDLES, BROKEBACK and HIDDEN/CACHE. These are my "top 5" - all equally rated - of the year.

  2. being gay will never get anyone an Oscar. at the most, Ang Lee will be glorified for his clean vision of the story that happens to be gay.
    as for "violence is better", no comment.

  3. I don't think having a PC topic is enough to get you an Oscar *on its own* but at the margin it surely helps. Having said that, I rate Brokeback equally as highly as History so I will bear no grudge if the cowboys trump Aragorn in the Oscars. Brokeback is simply a brilliant love story. The sexual inclination of the protagonists is irrelevant.

  4. Interesting blog. I agree, Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" was easily the best film of 2005.

  5. Glad you like it. when you say "easily" I wonder if you have seen Hidden/Cache yet? If so, I would love to hear what you think of it. Just saw Zwigoff's new Art School Confidential - early front runner for BM2006.....

  6. You do not lie, this is a fine movie, a very fine movie and definitely one of the best of 2005. As you've not directed me wrong here, I'll be ordering Hidden/Cache next, right after I watch this a couple more times of course.