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directed by Spike Lee
USA 2002

As I reflect on Spike Lee's recent film "25th Hour" it is evident in the shift in his directorial maturity.  Although I will wait for subsequent viewings, I am prepared to call this his best film to date. If nothing else, this is his most somber and subtle expression, veering from his usual heavy-handed approach. '25th Hour' had elements of his highly acclaimed "Do the Right Thing' but was closer to a more controlled and deliberately paced film.


Known, with Woody Allen, as the consummate New York director he broached (in a mainstream film) the aftermath of 9/11 by more than just incorporating the presence of ground zero at various scenes into his character study of five individuals and their reaction to a single event. The focus of the film's plot lies not in the collapse of the Twin Towers but in the final freedom (24 hours) of a convicted drug peddler known as Monty Brogan. He is set to spend the next 7 years behind bars and this film documents his last 24 hours prior to incarceration.  His interaction with girlfriend, family and friends - his suspicions of who "ratted" him out and his past reflections and future redemptions are all confronted.


Edward Norton displays his usual charisma as another talented, intelligent and potentially dangerous young man. Monty is an affable, street-smart Irish-American New Yorker, who chose to sell drugs to his rich school mates to acquire wealth. His best friend is Frank Slaughtery, played by Barry Pepper in a breakthrough role for this fine young actor. Frank is a similar street-wise Irish-American hustler - but he manipulates stocks and options as a financial trader.  Philip Seymour Hoffman plays his other childhood friend, a teacher named Jacob Elinsky. A passive innocuous educator who is tempted to sexually indulge himself in one of the coquettish female students in his class; Mary, played by Anna Paquin. Lee uses the 2.35:1 widescreen lens to best effect while often showing major characters focused but off-centre or to the very edge of the frame. This detachment helps to fulfill a more realized representation. He is helped though, with all-star performances across the board. If this wasn't enough, include what  I would rate as perhaps the best musical score of the year; Terence Blanchard's opus of contemplative, soul-searching violin and operatic accompaniments match the mood of the long cinematographic pans and collages.


Monty's echoing lament of "if it only hadn't happened" is easily reflected as the tragedy of 9/11. Whether it be the blue searchlight beams from ground zero or the ode to firefighters in Monty's father's bar, the references are continuously evident. Is Monty the microcosm of a shell-shocked America? - confused about who has betrayed him - critical of his own complacency -  weary of the undetermined prospects that the near future has in store? The open-ended speculative nature of these critical focal points seems too coincidental. In addition there are a multitude of non-judgmental interpersonal issues that face direct comparisons touching upon the myriad of subtleties of the consistent coda of directors  Zhang Yimou or Abbas Kiarostami . These can be digested in different portions by different viewers - and the contemplative nature is there beauty.


The film concludes with Monty's father (played by Brian Cox) giving a fictional representation of how to come through this tragedy - it instills the hopeful nature that must be kept in mind for  Monty and perhaps all New Yorkers. The vision though is too idealized, and although enjoyably serene we must inevitably come back to the harsh realty of the future. With many themes harkening to the tragedy of September 11th, the film contains elements of reflection, sadness, friendship, trust, regret, power, fatalistic life decisions, temptation and coping. I've read many critics lukewarm reception of this film and I don't get it... I found it a modern masterpiece. out of

Gary W. Tooze


Theatrical Release: December 16th, 2002 - USA

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DVD Review: Buena Vista -  Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Buena Vista Home Video  Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 2:14:32  
Video 2.35:1.00 Letterboxed WideScreen / 16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.5 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Audio English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French THX Certified
Subtitles English (Close-captioned), None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Touchstone / Buena Vista Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• DVD Menu
• Bonus Material
    The Evolution of an American Filmmaker (22:21)
    Deleted Scenes (non-anamorphic widescreen)
        Play All
        Sway (1:34)
        Little Odessa (3:08)
        Naturelle, Mom and Monty (2:45)
        Party Plans (:55)
        Sneaking Mary In (:50)
        Mary's Death Scene (1:03)
• Director Commentary
    View the Film With Optional Audio Commentary by Director Spike Lee
• Screenwriter Commentary
    View the Film With Optional Audio Commentary by Screenwriter David Benioff
• Ground Zero (5:33)
• Register Your DVD
• Scene Selection
• Set Up
        Audio Options
              English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
              French Dolby Digital Stereo
              English for the Hearing Impaired
        Captions: None
        THX Optimizer
              Audio Tests
              Video Tests

DVD Chapters
1. A Good Dog
2. Touched
3. English Class
4. Frank
5. Uncomfortable Sofa
6. Reflection
7. Three Choices
8. Interrogation
9. 62nd Percentile
10. Naturelle
11. Last Night Out
12. Greed and Regret
13. Jake the Snake
14. "Paid in Full"
15. Nikolai's Advice
16. "One Last Thing"
17. Time to Go
18. "Left Turn to Where?"
19. Don't Look Back
20. End Credits

DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2003
Keep Case
Chapters: 20

I think this is a strong candidate for DVD of Year. It is as flawless as I have seen in a while. The image shows film grain and perfect contrast levels. I don't recall seeing any digital manipulation caused by the transfer process. It is sharp as a tack displaying the often gritty cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros). The picture is anamorphic and maintains the wonderful 2.35 original aspect ratio. It is full of Extras... two commentaries - one by director Lee - one by screen and novel writer David Benioff, Six Deleted scenes, a short documentary by Lee entitled "The Evolution of an American Filmmaker" etc. I can't see where this DVD would be lacking for even the most anal of Digital Versatile Disc aficionados. Great audio (5.1) track too. I give it  out of

Gary W. Tooze

P.S. I think the 'Edge Enhancement' noted by some DVD critics may be the way the film was shot - in varying lens' - not excessive edge enhancement.  it can tend to make the picture look saturated at times (especially in the opening sequence and the dream sequence at the end).


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Distribution Buena Vista Home Video  Region 1 - NTSC



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Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...