Sunday, 19 January 2014

Out of the Furnace Review

Forget American Hustle. You won't see a better performance this year from Christian Bale than in Out of the Furnace. It might at first glance look like a simple revenge thriller, particularly with many promotional pictures showing Bale carrying a gun but Out of the Furnace is more than this. It is a slow burn drama that only turns thriller in its final act and even then keeps character at the fore and never descends into silly over the top thrills.

Out of the Furnace sees Bale as Russell Baze, a hard working mill employee in a happy relationship with Lena (Zoe Saldana) and trying  hard to keep his brother Rodney, a returning US army soldier (Casey Affleck) out of trouble. With a dying Dad to care for, Rodney getting into increasing debt and a tough job under threat from the crippled US economy, all looks fairly bleak for Russell and his brother. Rodney refuses to get a job, preferring instead to take loans and gamble and then finding himself getting into bare knuckle boxing matches where he is paid to take a fall but doesn't always feel like going down. When Russell is sent to jail for his part in a tragic accident, Rodney descends further into an underworld of boxing, betting and brutality at the hands of mountain dwelling redneck Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a man even the cops don't want to mess with.

Out of the Furnace is another death of America movie. Its locations, its characters and its themes all show an America struggling to survive. It takes place in the very real, very sad, ass end of America where the people work hard to scrape a living but are faced with increasingly uncertain and depressing looking futures. Mills are closing, jobs are disappearing and crime is increasingly becoming a way of life. The wars on other countries have left America economically ravaged and its young men returning haunted by what they have seen and done. They are left to their own devices; fuelled by rage and resentment at the country that no longer cares for them.

Rodney is a tragic figure, sympathetically played by Casey Affleck. He is bitter, angry and a danger to himself. Russell in comparison is an angel, but an angel whose one very big mistake changes his life forever. When he loses his freedom, his girlfriend and his father, he is desperate to keep his brother from going completely off the rails. However Out of the Furnace is not a film of happy endings. It is a wholly believable deconstruction of bruised masculinity and the things it drives modern men to do.

Bale is outstanding as the almost saintly Russell who just wants to do the right thing but is dragged into revenge and despair by unfortunate circumstances. His chemistry with Affleck is touching, convincing and ultimately tragic. Bale carries the film and delivers an outstanding performance, whether crying over lost love or determined to take action against those who wrong him. While Harrelson's character constantly teeters on caricature, the rest of the cast; Affleck, Saldana, Forrest Whitaker and Willem Dafoe add gravitas and believability to what could have easily turned ridiculous. Director and co-writer Scott Cooper never turns this into a one man Rambo mission and the film is all the better for it.

Out of the Furnace is not the simple revenge thriller it may at first appear to be. With top-notch performances from an excellent cast, it is a depressing look at the lack of choices and opportunities facing many modern Americans and the fallout from economic disaster and war that has left many young men with little hope of recovery.

Please enjoy some more reviews from I Love That Film:


Dallas Buyers Club

12 Years A Slave

American Hustle

All is Lost

The Railway Man

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Captain Phillips

Saving Mr. Banks