Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Brave One (2008)

The Brave OneTrauma, severe trauma, can unleash aspects of the human personality that may appear as a stranger within. Such is the premise for this well-constructed film by Neil Jordan (screenplay by Roderick Taylor and Bruce Taylor), and while the neither concept of trauma-altered personality or revenge tales is new, THE BRAVE ONE alters the vengeance idea just enough to make it credible and to even draw the viewer into believing that what the character is doing is justified and right! And that is perhaps the most frightening aspect of this terrifying film.

Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) is a night radio talk show performer, a woman who walks the city of New York gathering sounds and observing the mysteries of the 'safest big city' and relates her observations poetically to a large radio audience. Erica is engaged to young physician David (Naveen Andrews) and the couple are very much in love. One night on an evening stroll with their dog they are attacked by thugs, beaten with pipes, and David is killed while Erica narrowly survives. Upon awakening from her coma she is devastated by her loss of David and becomes a strangely haunted woman, unable to sleep, unable to get immediate help from the police, and turns to purchasing a gun in an attempt to right the wrongs she has suffered. This new 'person' or 'stranger within' happens to witness a murder in a little store and to her amazement she responds by killing the murderer. A similar situation happens on the subway where two thugs threaten people, threaten Erica, and Erica again responds by killing the thugs. She feels driven to avenge the death of her David, but at the same time fears her own inner stranger. Erica returns to her radio show, under changing instructions form her boss Carol (Mary Steenburgen), and finds the changes in her psyche result in bracing her listeners about fear on the streets. In her audience is Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) who has personal problems related to the fact that he has been unable to arrest a known killer. Mercer connects with Erica in various ways, she interviews him for her show, and the two bond. Erica trusts Mercer, wants to share what she is doing, yet hears his frustration about not being able to seek his own brand of revenge frustration against the oily killer he pursues, and decides to eliminate that trauma for Mercer. As the tension builds, the identity of Erica's assailants is discovered, and how she deals with these thugs (and with Mercer's interaction in the solution) forms the surprising ending for the film.

Too little has been written and said about the quality of performances from both Foster and Howard in this tense thriller. These two actors deliver performances so sensitive in execution that memories of previous similar films evaporate. This is a tough film to watch for all the violence not only on the screen but from within the characterizations by the actors (with the capable direction of Neil Jordan), but it is for this viewer one of the strongest films of the year. Perhaps now that the DVD can be viewed within the safety of the home more people will pay attention to a film that deserves awards. Grady Harp, February 08

The Brave One continues Jodie Foster's recent foray into the thriller genre. So far, she's produced some pretty good results. She shouldn't be embarassed by either Panic Room, Flightplan, or The Brave One. The writing, directing, and co-stars (Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, etc...) are all excellent and Foster is Foster.

Foster plays Erica Bain, an engaged NPR-type radio show host. One night, she and her fiance are walking in Central Park, and are viciously robbed and attacked. Her fiance is killed, and Erica is basically robbed of her happy existence by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Deciding that revenge is the only way for her to cope with her loss, she proceeds to buy a gun and go on the prowl for her attackers, while developing a friendship with a cop (played by Howard) working on the cases she creates with her vigilantism.

The Brave One shows how a traumatic event can leave psychological scars that are much worse than those of the physical variety. The movie is well-acted, and even if the ending seems unlikely, it seems fair given what has taken place.

The Brave One is a very enjoyable film about a not-so-enjoyable subject severe trauma and its aftermath. It comes highly recommended.

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Going into a Jodie Foster film is like visiting an old friend. You typically only see her every few years or so, but you know when the time comes what an awesome experience it will be. Flightplan and Panic Room were enjoyable, lightweight thrillers, but this one is my favorite Foster film since The Silence of the Lambs because of its more dark and serious tones. Even Jodie herself admitted that this was one of her best in years. It was actually only one of two films I saw the entire 2007 year. Jodie has become an actress I have developed a great deal of respect and admiration for and so I trust what she chooses. I have never been disappointed. The film may have some minor flaws, but it's a 5-star performance all the way as to be expected. Jodie received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress this year and was also awarded the Sherry Lansing award for being one of the most powerful women in entertainment. Another worthy film to add into your Jodie collection. And even though it's not one of her favorite works, I always like to recommend The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane to catch a glimpse at a very talented young actress who would go on to greater heights in her very long career.

Read Best Reviews of The Brave One (2008) Here

As some have mentioned, this story has been told before. It's been told plenty of times to be more exact. The lack of originality aside though, `The Brave One' still delivers on quite a few levels and manages to leave the audience satisfied. In fact I'm a little stunned at the critical beating this movie took. Some critics made this out to be so terrible that I almost stayed away entirely. I've never been a real fan of Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard just irritates me to no end so really the film had no draw on me to begin with; and then the critics attacked and so I was left with absolutely no reason to give it a chance. Then I found myself alone and bored with nothing to do but watch TV and the only movie on Pay-Per-View I hadn't seen was `The Brave One'.

I will say this first and foremost; both Foster and Howard have never, and I mean NEVER, impressed me more than in this film. They are the beating heart here, the reason upon all reasons to give this movie a chance. Especially Foster, but I'll get to her in a minute. Howard really sunk into his role and pulled up every ounce of his characters vulnerability. I remember back in 2005 when Howard starred in `Crash' and `Hustle & Flow' and everyone was singing his praises as the next big thing. I remember so well because I didn't get it. His performance in `Crash' was choppy and uneven, a little forced even and his performance in `Hustle & Flow' was decent but to me it ended up being 70% hype and 30% delivery. Here I actually saw what everyone had been claiming to see for so long. Here I finally saw him shine.

`The Brave One' tells the tragic story of Erica Bain, a middle-aged woman about to be married to the man of her dreams when she and her fiancé are brutally attacked and their dream is shattered. Her fiancé dies as a result of the attack and she is critically injured. Upon recovery she realizes that she is no longer the person she once was. She is trapped in this shell of fear and pain that engulfs all that she does, every decision she makes and ultimately shapes the person she will soon become. Her first step was buying a gun, a gun she initially purchased to protect herself from the very people she now feared so much but that gun soon led her down a path she didn't know was going to be presented to her.

Jodie Foster has been a critically praised actress for years now. She's won two Academy Awards for her performances in `The Accused' and `The Silence of the Lambs'. She's been considered one of our greatest actresses for quite some time but it wasn't until I saw this film that I understood why. I actually thought that Foster was overrated. She utterly blew me away here. This is by far her finest performance and to me is one of the best performances of this year, period. Her fragility, her vulnerability but most importantly her strength help elevate this character so much. There's a scene where she returns to work for the first time after the attack and she's struggling to talk, struggling to put herself out there and then all of a sudden a clicks. Her voice deepens, her eyes squint, her face tightens and in those few moments I was spellbound by her brilliance. She was captivating.

`The Brave One' is not the best film out there. It suffers from some clichés and a lack of originality but it has two very strong performances in its corner to help it survive. Despite its flaws it never falls apart or loses our interest. Foster commands every scene she embodies and carries this film straight on through to its closing. Put aside the fact that you've seen this plot unravel before and embrace the electric performances that embody the soul of this film.

Want The Brave One (2008) Discount?

A powerful and Oscar worthy performance by Jodie Foster is unfortunately overlooked because far too many associated this film with Charles Bronson's classic Death Wish.

While there are definitely similar themes in both films and strong performance are given by both leads, this film is far more cerebral with its approach than Bronson's film. We feel Foster's pain more via her bravura performance and especially since as a radio DJ she has the unique opportunity to air her thoughts on the subject at hand, vigilantism, and hear how others think of her actions (without realizing they are actually speaking to the vigilante herself). This puts a powerful psychological spin on the story often lacking in other similarly themed films.

I also found the title intriguing as it may be asking a question more than defining a character here. Foster's Erica Bane, clever choice in last name which means burden or cause of ruin, is conflicted over whether her actions are praise-worthy or even brave as both topics come up on her radio talk show. Her reaction is bewilderment to think others think she is brave when she believes she is acting out of fear, and disgust for those that think she is "doing the city a favor" somehow or for finding her behavior easy.

She does her actions as a compulsion to rectify a wrong, to vent, and, yes, get revenge. She does not believe she is "helping" the city and is angry at that perception and with herself for this obsession that is now invading every part of her being. These criminals who hurt her have taken more than her finance, they have taken her peace of mind and a chunk of her life and she is angry that many don't understand this. She feels very misunderstood by most except for a detective, excellently portrayed by Terrance Howard, who is on to her, but very sympathetic as he is something of a tortured soul himself.

The film explores just who is brave here. Is it Bane for facing her anger, for finding a manner in which to vent, for seeking resolution, for simply surviving her harrowing encounter, or is it the power that a gun gives one. It's easy to be brave with a gun in your hand is an underlying message in this story as it was in a famous novel I just finished teaching my students this week. Atticus Finch said in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird to his son Jem who watched an old woman die facing a battle most could not or would not face themselves and said, "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand." Courage isn't measured by how many bullets one has, but by how one faces a struggle in which one can't win.

Foster's Bane seem to feel great anger at herself for the control that she has allowed some criminals to have over her life and for the power she was finding in a gun. Isn't this why some carry a gun? For power? For control? For their notion on what justice is or ought to be?

Who is the brave one?

Sadly, it isn't the writer or director who choose to take an emotionally charged and intelligently developed story and go down a trite, contrived, and completely unrealistic resolution to a story as provocative as this one started out as and could have and should have ended as such. Those who like their stories to end with a neat bow will be pleased, but others who prefer realism and honesty in films will resent the cheap cowardly ending this film contains and that is my only reason for this film getting four stars instead of five and perhaps why it got snubbed at the Oscars even though Foster's performance and Terrance Howard as the detective keeping tabs on her are completely flawless even with the silly ending they are forced to act out with a straight face.

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