Ever find yourself shuffling around your local video store, eyes glazed over at all of typical genre fare studios churn out year after year, longing for something different? You could head over to the independent/festival section for relief, but it might mean straying farther from your usual tastes than you’d like. Enter The Brave One, an intelligent thriller that takes the usual revenge tale and rearranges its DNA. It offers the unusual perspective of director Neil Jordan (The Good Thief) and Jodie Foster’s finest performance since The Silence of the Lambs.
Foster stars as Erica Bain, a New Yorker whose life is torn apart by a vicious attack that leaves her in a coma and her fiancé dead. When she comes to weeks later, she learns of his death and funeral, and she cannot remember enough from those dark moments in Central Park to help the police track down the killers. Bain, host of an I-love-NY radio show called “I Walk the Streets,” can now hardly bear leaving her apartment. Fear controls her. The city she once loved has become a terrible place where danger lurks everywhere, in dark corners and broad daylight. Giving in to her fear, Bain buys a gun off the street, and like Alice down the rabbit-hole, her life spirals into a disturbing adventure.
Foster is captivating as the tormented hero, and will likely walk away with the 2008 Best Actress Oscar. Unlike your average vigilante protagonist, Foster’s Bain is disturbed by her own capacity for violence and distraught over the changes she experiences as a result of the brutal attack and her subsequent choices. Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow) is also strong in a supporting role as Mercer, a detective on the trail of a gun-toting vigilante. He and Bain strike up a friendship of sorts, a relationship that enhances the film’s satisfying climax, but is left open for a number of possibilities after the credits roll.
Director Jordan is an unusual choice for a film of this genre. His vision tends more toward the artistic realm, but his appreciation for dark themes makes him a great fit for The Brave One. Combined with the cinematography of Philippe Rousselot (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), the film’s pace and visual style is mesmerizing, without obstructing the raw humanity of Foster’s performance.
All told, The Brave One is a taught thriller that treads well beyond the usual gun-toting fare of the revenge-pic genre. That alone makes it well worth watching. Foster makes it worth owning.
The Brave One is presented on a single disc, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the film lacks a vivid colour range, it’s still a visually stunning picture. New York City has been the backdrop of countless films, but Rousselot and Jordan provide a new perspective, re-imagining the iconic city to reflect Bain’s journey into darkness. Fine details and effective uses of contrast abound, while compression artifacts are absent – frightened by Bain’s brutality, no doubt.
The main audio presentation is English in Dolby Digital 5.1. The Brave One may be a borderline action movie, but it’s not a slam-bang aural experience. The focus is on character development and interaction, so there’s a lot of dialogue and quiet reflection enhanced by the relentless ambience of the city. The mix is well balanced, and certainly enough to immerse you in the film, though it will not provide much of a workout for your sound system.
5.1 audio is also available in French and Spanish, along with subtitles in all three languages.
One step above a bare-bones disc, this release of The Brave One offers only one featurette and a few deleted scenes. The featurette, I Walk the Streets, is your typical making-of-meets-promo, but the deleted scenes are actually well worth your time, as they explore a couple of subplots that don’t get much attention in the theatrical cut.
The Brave One is a satisfying film with depth and intelligence far greater than most in its genre. I’ll recommend it to anyone who can handle bursts of violence and dark themes. As for this disc, it’s definitely a let-down in the extras department. Hopefully Warner will double-dip in the coming months.