Jennie’s Review: Out of the Furnace

Letter Grade:

The Good:


The Bad:

If I have to pick, I'd say that it isn't exactly uplifting.

Cast & Crew:

Directed By: Scott Cooper
Written By: Scott Cooper and Brad Ingelsby
Starring: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, and Sam Shepard

Rated R for strong violence, language and drug content

Out of the Furnace opens with Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) at a drive in theater.  He is on a date and the woman with him says something that upsets him.  He proceeds to throw her food out the window, jam a cigar down her throat, slam her head against the dash board, and then beats a good samaratatin checking on his date so savagely that onlookers are calling 911 by the end of the scene.  In case you missed the subtlety of this scene, he’s an awful person and the most OUT OF THE FURNACEobvious bad guy of the movie… unless of course you include post traumatic stress disorder and crippling depression as bad guys as well.

We then meet Russell Baze (Christian Bale) a worker at the local Steel Mill and his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), a Veteran who has done a few tours in the Middle East and is heading out for another due to being stop-lossed.  Rodney has a gambling problem (and a Bare-knuckle boxing to pay off his debts problem), Russell works hard and tries to bail him out as much as he can but it’s not enough.  Their father, who also spent his life working at the Steel Mill, is dying and hooked up to all sorts of medical equipment in his own living room.  Russell’s girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana) wants more of a commitment, specifically a baby, but he does not believe he is financially ready for that sort of step.OUT OF THE FURNACE

Then Russell makes a terrible decision that changes his life and the lives of his loved ones forever.

This is the second endeavor for Director Scott Cooper.  His directorial debut was the critically acclaimed, award winning, and box office success Crazy Heart.  While this movie did not garner as much hype as the first one did, and it will not surpass its success, I believe it to be a wonderful piece that Cooper should be proud of.

The acting in this film is all top notch, as it should be considering 6 of the main characters are Oscar Nominated (some winning) actors.  Every character is perfectly cast and believable in their roles.  In other years this film would have easily picked up some acting nominations for some of the major awards ceremonies.  This year however, I think it just doesn’t have enough traction against all the other great competition.  I could be wrong, but I doubt it.  Woody Harrelson is consistently great and his range and flexibility in roles is spectacular.  It still amazes me that Woody from Cheers could be such a menacing character in such a convincing way.

OUT OF THE FURNACEThere is a moment in this film where Christian Bale’s character revisits the place where everything changed.  Not many people can pinpoint the exact moment and location that they ruined their lives and changed the course of the lives of others.  This character can. The pain that is conveyed in the eyes and on the face of Bale is very moving.  He accepts the consequences of his actions, but there is no doubt that every moment he wishes he could take them back.

Beyond the superb acting the film is also well done technically. The cinematography (by Masanobu Takayanagi) is stunning.  There are many scenes that make you feel as though you are immersed in a exquisite oil painting. Lately there seems to be a trend in Hollywood of showing ugly situations beautifully – Mud, The Place Beyond the Pines, 12 Years a Slave, Prisoners, and so on. For me, this is wonderful.  For me, there is beauty in the rust, in chipped paint, in tears, in everything.

OUT OF THE FURNACEI was personally touched by this film if for nothing more than its socio-economic tones.  I grew up in an area that has seen the Steel Mills (and other factories) that were the driving force of a community fade away into extinction and leave the employees and families behind.  I know generations of families who worked those jobs, only to see them taken away, their homes and communities fall into ruin, and the pride held so dearly now hanging on by an unraveling thread. This film did an excellent job of showing the realities of those places.  The ways in which people deal with the day to day and what some people are willing to do in the circumstances, both good and bad.

This movie is rough, violent, and vulgar, but it is also beautiful, heartbreaking and thought provoking.  If you liked Winter’s Bone, Mystic River, or Mud you will probably enjoy this film and should seek it out.

Photos Courtesy of Relativity Media

Jennie Stoddart (24 Posts)

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