Christian Bale leads an all-star cast in Out of the Furnace, a gritty drama centred on the lives of two brothers, Russell and Rodney Baze, living in small town America and struggling to find meaning in their lives following the death of their father.
Bale’s Russell is trying to make an honest living but through a tragic accident is imprisoned and whilst inside loses his girlfriend to police chief Forest Whitaker. Casey Affleck plays his younger brother, Rodney, an Iraq veteran plagued by the horrors of war and unable to find peace upon returning home.
The grimy aesthetic of this tough corner of America and the hard working lives of its inhabitants is expertly brought to life by director Scott Cooper and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi. Helped dramatically by the fact it was shot beautifully on 35mm film, giving a deep and real texture to the story. The production design, art direction and make-up also deserve special mention in their contribution towards the film’s authenticity.
The stellar cast deliver top-of-their-game turns and in so doing create an understated and affecting story of the hardships of war, violence and loss. Although some of the film’s bigger themes are perhaps only eluded to and not given enough screen time then that lends to the realism of the picture, as the performances are steeped in naturalism and grit rather than showy emotion. One scene between Affleck and Bale in particular explodes out of the screen and resonates throughout the cinema, with the former stealing the show with a moment of brute brilliance.
David Rosenbloom‘s editing works wonderfully to gently roll the story together, subtly accentuating the differences between these two brothers. One sequence in particular (possibly an homage to The Deer Hunter) is stitched together to highlight Russell’s inability to take a life following his experience of the accident and prison against Rodney’s burning rage to keep fighting and kill anyone in his way after the trauma he suffered in service of his country.
The only gripe, but sadly it’s one that doesn’t go away, it would’ve been more interesting to delve further into the troubled relationship of these two brothers and explore that dynamic without all the revenge / baddie stuff (although the baddie is superbly embodied by Woody Harrelson) as that’s where the true drama clearly lies. Still, a proper film. And you don’t get too many of them these days.