Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: David Benioff
Starring: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin
One of the more common hypotheticals thrown around revolves around what one would do on their last day on earth, A hypothetical typically answered with actions outside of the normal activities done by the responder. This film takes that idea with a man set to spend seven years in prison and it captures that dread and the need for closure.
Living a better life not too long ago, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) faces a prison sentence for the distribution of illegal drugs. On his final day, he confronts the possibilities of betrayal from people in his life, how the money he illicitly gained helped others, and what life in prison awaits him. To experience everything in those final hours of freedom, Monty spends time with his buddies Jacob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Frank Slaughtery (Barry Pepper) for a night that hopefully creates some memories.
A true passion project for Ed Norton, he fully embodies the character of Monty, who lives a life of pleasure with his girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson). He makes great money until someone betrays him and leads law enforcement to the drugs Monty sells for a Russian mobster. With that final day, Monty visits his father and fights off the temptation of hate for his decision making, which leads to one of the film’s larger themes of blame. Throughout the story, different characters battle over where the blame should reside for the misfortunes in their life. For Monty, it lies with who he hears betrays him and whether or not he chooses to believe the information. He wants to blame the city for its people and his close friends, but the major development in his character appears when he realizes on his contribution to his own undoing. A journey shared not just by him.
The two friends, Jacob and Frank have their own issues they must fight throughout the story. Jacob tries to be a supportive friend while also harboring judgment towards Mony’s decision making. Frank has a very introverted nature that gets questioned when he must encounter one of his students, whom he has a crush on. A bit of an unnerving plotline because of the student being 17. Frank cannot bare to reflect on his level attraction to her as a middle-aged guy and it does not help when she shows up at the same club where the guys celebrate Monty’s final night. Each character has their own vice but only Monty seems to be going to jail for his.
On the surface, 25th Hour may not seem like a Spike Lee film, but he implements a style in a way that makes it undeniably his. Whether it be the type of score or the way he captures New York City in all its glory and grime. His pairing with Edward Norton created a touching story of missed opportunities and what the future holds. The narrative is rough around the edges, which should be expected whenever Spike Lee takes on any project.
Serving as a story of reflection and taking in every moment, 25th Hour allows its protagonist to see life for all of its glamour and pitfalls. His predicament shows him his true allies and the people that can love him for his humanity despite his faults. Even with the limited time, the film takes its time to tell the story and allow for the necessary self-reflection of Monty. It’s ending closely plays with reality much like what would be replicated in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. A great combination of actors and a director with a story worth revisiting. Greed, blame, and trust all play into these interwoven character storylines and end with a captivating finale.