Monday, February 01, 2010

A Little Light The Edge of Darkness Be

Edge of Darkness

A character in Edge of Darkness remarks “it never is what it is. It is what it can be made to look like…” This line sums up the film perfectly. Edge of Darkness is yet another example of faulty studio marketing at its finest. Mel Gibson's return to acting is being sold as an action-packed revenge flick in the same vein as Taken and Payback. In reality, the movie is actually a political thriller that is surprisingly light on the thrills.

Based on the 1985 BBC mini-series of the same name, Edge of Darkness is about Thomas Craven’s (Mel Gibson) quest for justice after his daughter, Emma (Bojana Novakovic), is gunned down before his eyes. Soon Thomas finds himself unravelling a mystery that somehow links back to Jack Bennett (Danny Huston), the head of a nuclear facility contracted by the United States government. Thomas search for the truth is further complicated by the emergence of Darius Jedburgh (Ray Winstone), a man who specializes in ensuring that government secrets stay hidden.

The one major hurdle Edge of Darkness never seems to overcome is how close to the edge will Craven go? Every time you think he has reached his breaking point, the director, Martin Campbell, seems to pullback Craven leash. This gets frustrating after a while as it seems that all the truly interesting moments are being kept from the audience. It is as if Campbell needed to cut out the good stuff to ensure a regular running time. It is only in the last ten minutes of the film when we finally see the rabid dog inside Thomas cut loose. The sad part is that even that severely disappoints. The “action-packed” finale is nothing you have not seen in hundreds of movies before. Come to think of it, the most memorable moment in the entire film is when Gibson" goes to town" on a bookish environmental crusader who clearly has never been in a fight in his life. The mismatch of the two men is so absurd that you cannot help but laugh at the scene.

I know some will argue that the film is not about the action as much as it is about the moral dilemma within Gibson’s character. While I am sure the inner conflict that Craven, and several of the other characters , face is gripping in the six episode mini-series; it just does not work in a two hour film. Proof of this comes when you really look at how Campbell handles Gibson's character in the film. Martin Campbell tries really hard to justify Craven’s actions at the end of the film by making him witness and endure a lot of the evil things up to that point. Yet the question must be asked, is it really necessary to justify Craven's actions at all? A loss of a child is enough to make the average parent snap. Do we really need the shady corporation to do extremely dastardly things as well just so we can cheer for the hero?

Trying to moralize a person's violent action is a theme that runs throughout the picture. Whether it is Danny Huston’s Bennett perversely wondering what pain of losing a child feels like, or Winstone’s Darius philosophizing about his actions on the job, everyone is wrestling with something. Speaking of Ray Winstone, his superb acting talents are grossly wasted in the film. Darius Jedburgh spends the majority of the picture on the sidelines trying to figure out whose team he wants to play for. By time Darius does decide to make a statement it comes far too late and ultimately does not enhance the plot at all.

The only thing the Edge of Darkness did successfully was peak my interest in the original source material. I could see how the subject matter could be invigorating if given the length of a mini-series to flesh everything out properly. Sadly by truncating the series to fit a standard film running time, Edge of Darkness does not have enough depth or thrills to really make the impact that Campbell and Gibson hoped for.

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