Death At A Funeral

Starring Jodie Foester, Naveen Andrews, Terence Howard. Directed by Neil Jordan. Rated MA 15+ (strong violence, strong coarse language).
Running Time: 117 mins.
Rated: Rated MA 15+ (strong violence, strong coarse language)
With autumn political conferences, issues of crime, gun possession, the carrying of knives, stop and search, gang murders receive a great deal of headline attention as well as comment. Promises about policing are made. Fear amongst the public makes for alarming reading. Crowded goals and judges' decisions become problems.

This is the material of comment columns in a Catholic paper like The Universe. However, sometimes a film comes along that raises the issues in a story form, dramatically, that heightens our emotional response to crime and the inadequacies of the law and makes us think. The social comment becomes part of the film review.

There have always been films about angry vigilante activity, about people taking the law into their own hands, films like Death Wish. They make emotional sense for bereaved and angry victims and their families, but what is the morality of such vigilante action?
Now comes a film about crime, brutality, the law and vigilante action. But, it is a film which acknowledges such action without condoning it, which acknowledges the anger that eats at victims. But, it is also a film which goes inside the mind and heart of a victim whose partner is viciously killed while she is bashed. Does she really survive? Is she the same person? How can a person who calmly observed society before now become a different person, a stranger to herself, consumed by anger and acting in vengeance?

These are some of the questions raised in Neil Jordan's excellent film, The Brave One.
Dublin-born director and novelist, Neil Jordan, has been making films for a quarter of a century, making a variety of impressive but very different films. Amongst his films The Company of Wolves, Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, Interview with a Vampire and Michael Collins stand out. He brings these skills to The Brave One, making one wonder what such a serious-minded director is doing with a vigilante theme.

The answer is that he wants to raise the issues through a dramatic story. He wants to present the various sides to vigilante arguments but, more than any other such film, he wants to go into the mind of the vigilante to see what the violence is doing to the psyche, the conscience and the soul. No matter how seemingly just the cause, taking the law into one's own hands to become judge, jury and executioner takes its moral toll.

This is a Jodie Foster film. She is also a very serious actress who won Oscars for portraying a rape victim in The Accused and Clarice Starling who confronts Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Here she plays a radio personality who tapes the sounds of New York City as background to her broadcast musings on life in the city. By using her voiceover commentary, we hear what the experience of the bashing and death mean to her and how they change her.

The New York detective, played by Terrence Howard, who is committed to the law and his own personal integrity meets and is interviewed by the radio personality without knowing who she is let alone what she is doing in vengeance. He too is frustrated in criminals escaping justice and is close to moving to his own independent action from a different perspective.

Strong production values, New York city itself as a vivid character, fine acting and a thoughtful script means that this is a parable about vengeance, not solving the issues neatly and clearly, but providing a range of questions. It is a question parable.

It is a very relevant and demanding parable for today.

Village Roadshow Out October 11

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.