Out of the Furnace (2013) Directed by Scott Cooper. With Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harreslon, Zoë Saldana, Sam Shepard, Tom Bower, Forest Whitaker and Willem Dafoe.
Co-written with Brad Inglesby, Scott Cooper’s ‘Out of the Furnace‘ is a heavyweight drama-thriller that tells the story of two brothers (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) and their life struggle in small-town, Eastern Pennsylvania.
Photographed by Masanobu “Masa” Takayanagi, the film captures the of decay and beauty of a part of the forgotten real America. Even before the global financial recession of 2008, we see a town struggling to make ends meet. Christian Bale’s character, Russell works the local mill, striving to make an honest living to look after his girl (Zoë Saldana) – who wouldn’t!? His brother, Rodney (Affleck) – a veteran of war in Iraq, suffers from post-traumatic-stress and makes the decision to enter into a world of bare-knuckle fighting as a source of income. It is here that the main thrust of the plot takes hold.
The film is alive with fine performances. In the lead role, Christian Bale is excellent, once again demonstrating commitment with a natural presence that shows sensitivity and great depth. Although we’re very much grounded on men-being-men turf, the script affords Bale’s character the room to be more rounded, by serving up an affecting sub-plot involving his relationship with his girlfriend. This is, though, a very bleak tale of struggle and strife that manages to be gripping, despite a sense of inevitability about the ultimate destination of the plot.
The environment is very much present in the feel of the overall narrative here, which allows the film its authenticity. You can smell the sweat and dirt and the supporting actors are given more to do than just support. Forest Whitaker plays a local policeman with a complex association with Bale’s character, while Willem Dafoe’s conflicted interests make him more than just a bit-part player. It is, though, Woody Harrelson, as the scumbag leader of a drug-dealing fight club who stands out the most prominently. Harrelson ensures there isn’t so much of a whiff of benevolence to his character, creating a dangerous monster who feels genuinely threatening.
While it might offer nothing new, Out of the Furnace nevertheless packs a punch on the way to being a highly accomplished yarn with a range of top-drawer performances, fleshed out in a mix of understated sub-plots that give it life beyond its central narrative. 4/5