The Ledge: A Suspense Thriller With A Riveting Narrative That Should Not Be Missed!

DVD REVIEW
Title: The Ledge
Studio/Distributor: eOne Films
Director: Matthew Chapman
Principle Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Patrick Wilson, Terrence Howard, Liv Tyler
Length: 101 minutes
Released: September 27, 2011
Stars: 4.5

I rented The Ledge based entirely on its cast, without ever reading the plot synopsis on the back cover of the DVD.  This is one of those magical times when the movie you pick without much thought turns out to be one that you can’t stop thinking about.

The Ledge is a truly compelling dramatic suspense thriller (filmed in Baton Rouge, LA) that explores love, pain, human relationships and the complexities of our religious and spiritual beliefs.  It’s not a popcorn movie.  It’s deep, provocative, and explores faith in a very original way by both attacking and condoning religious beliefs.

The movie opens with a man talking to a doctor about his state of fertility and then quickly cuts to a younger man (Charlie Hunnam of Queer As Folk & Sons of Anarchy) walking along the roof of a very tall building, out onto a ledge, and it appears that he is about to jump.  We soon realize that he doesn’t want to jump but is being forced to and over the course of the next 95 minutes (which unfolds in real time), we find out why.  How did he get there?  If he doesn’t jump, someone else is going to die.  Why?  Who is it?  An interesting premise…

At the same time, there’s a cop (Terrence Howard of The Brave One, Hustle & Flow and is also a musician) who is sent to the scene to negotiate and try to talk the guy out of jumping.  We discover that he’s dealing with his own extraordinary personal situation and that both of the men are struggling with faith.  In fact, all of the characters in this film are faced with circumstances that force them to look at faith; either their belief or disbelief.  But this is not a preachy movie and you care about every person in the story.

Written and directed by Matthew Chapman, The Ledge took quite a few years to get made, but Charlie Hunnam knew he had to play Gavin Nichols from the time he read the script, four years before he started filming.  After watching the performances given by Hunnam and Patrick Wilson, I have a renewed commitment to watch them in Sons of Anarchy and A Gifted Man.

The Ledge is a refreshing far cry from today’s Hollywood mainstream film fare.  This is exceptional storytelling with a brilliantly written script that was brought to life by a cast of passionate and seriously gifted actors.  The lead role of Gavin is flawlessly portrayed by the remarkably intelligent and charismatic Hunnam while his nemesis, Christian fundamentalist, Joe Harris, is also played to perfection by the astounding Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Little Children).  Their common love interest, Shana, is created with complete honesty and emotional depth by the exquisite Liv Tyler (The Incredible Hulk, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) who can express more with just her face than most actresses of her generation.  Christopher Gorham (Harper’s Island, Ugly Betty) lends grace to the supporting role of Gavin’s HIV positive, gay roommate, Chris.  Finally, and no less important or impressive is the role of Detective Hollis Lucetti, played by the divine Terrence Howard (who co-executive produced the film), who so completely made me believe in his character’s emotions and predicament that I felt physically ill at the end of the movie.  I was so moved, I felt as if I’d had the wind knocked out of me while tears trickled down my face.

It isn’t often that I’m so surprised and motivated to write a review about a movie rental, but I could not let this one go back to Classic Video without telling my network about how excellent I think it is.  I watched Terrence Malick’s Oscar-nominated visual feast, The Tree of Life, the night before and although I admired the beauty of his filmmaking, I was left feeling somewhat confounded by the storyline.  That isn’t the case with The Ledge.  It’s a return to classic filmmaking in the sense that it doesn’t rely on any of the trappings of modern movies.  There are no special effects, explosions, or super heroes trying to save an unrealistic world.  The Ledge is simply a spellbinding story, impeccably conveyed by its director and actors.  After watching the film and some of the interviews featured in the extras on the DVD, I wanted to watch it all over again and that does not happen very often.

The Ledge is sexy, romantic, suspenseful, philosophical and terrifying, and all of those components are seamlessly woven to create a really riveting narrative that should not be missed.

True Blood: The Complete Third Season

DVD REVIEW
Title: True Blood
Studio/Distributor: Warner Bros./HBO
Principle Cast: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Alexander Skarsgård, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis, Carrie Preston
Number of Discs: 5
Released: May 31, 2011
Stars: 4.0

I haven’t yet read the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris upon which True Blood is based, but I just bought the first three in the series so will hopefully be enjoying them soon.  I started watching True Blood (rated R and definitely for adults) about a year ago because I’m a vampire fan and love Southern Gothic settings.  I also count Oscar & Emmy winning creator/producer Alan Ball’s previous series Six Feet Under among my all-time favourite shows, so I couldn’t wait to see what he was doing.  The glowing reviews for this HBO series had already made their way to my consciousness so when I finally watched Seasons 1 & 2 (I give them a 5 star review) I became addicted to this series for as long as it runs.

The characters in True Blood (a synthetic blood manufactured for vampires so that they can reveal themselves to the world and live among humans without necessarily feeding upon them) are so well-written, intriguing and phantasmagorical that you can’t help but be drawn in by them.  The interwoven storylines are complicated, outrageous and downright joyful in their debauchery.  The cinematography is superb, the music – especially the theme song “Bad Things” – is utterly captivating and most of all, the acting by this top-notch cast is quite simply out of this world.

Mixing romance, suspense, mystery and humor, True Blood tells the ongoing tale of Sookie (Anna Paquin, Golden Globe-winner for this role), a waitress with telepathic gifts -– and an irresistible attraction to now-174-year-old vampire Bill Compton (her real life husband Stephen Moyer), who went missing in the Season 2 finale.

I loved the bacchanalian evil of Marianne Forrester (Michelle Forbes) in Season 2 and was sad to see her staked, but in Season 3, Bon Temps, Louisiana is besieged by vicious werewolves and we find out that much to Sookie’s chagrin, she is in fact, a fairy!

Sookie desperately tries to find her fiancé Bill with the help of her werewolf bodyguard Alicide (the hunky Joe Manganiello); assigned by vampire sheriff Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) to protect her.  Together they travel to Mississippi where they must out-manoeuvre the Vampire King, Russell Edgington (Denis O’Hare appears to have had an absolute blast with this character), who along with his disciples – a pack of sadistic werewolves who feed on vampire blood – plans to consolidate his power.

Sookie’s dim but loyal brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten) is working on his police exams and meets a mysterious girl named Crystal while his detective friend Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) is on the wagon and making a name for himself as a local hero.  Bud and Arlene’s relationship is tested by Arlene’s unexpected news – Arlene’s a character I could do without as I find her annoying – and Sookie’s shape-shifting boss Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) is discovering that his real family are people he never would have chosen as friends.  Sookie’s best friend Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley) is mourning the death of her lover Eggs but soon finds an ally in a creepy vampire named Franklin Mott (James Frain) and later, some solace in Sam’s bed.  Tara’s V-addicted cousin Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis plays my favourite supporting character to perfection) takes up with his crazy mother’s (Alfre Woodard) gay male nurse Jesus (Kevin Alejandro), and teen vamp Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), after being briefly tempted by Sam’s brother pledges herself to Hoyt (Jim Parrack).

Haunted by visions of his past, Bill makes a surprising pledge of allegiance to Edgington and by the end of Season 3, Sookie, in a fit of fury, uninvites him from her home forever.

The reason I liked Season 3 a bit less than the first two was because I like Bill & Sookie as a couple and in this season they are not together very much.  As far as supernatural beings go, I’m less interested in werewolves than I am in vampires, shape-shifters and fairies but I must confess that werewolf Alcide was a tasty bit of eye candy who almost had me forgetting about Bill.

There is always a lot happening every season and it can be hard to remember everything, so HBO’s episode guide is a great way to refresh your memory.  Season 4 has already started but as I don’t have cable, I’ll have to wait until it’s available on DVD to find out what happens next.  I’ll be one of the first in line to rent it from Classic Video when it is!