Mathew Chapman’s latest film presents itself as an intelligent thriller that deals with the conflict between religious and secular worldviews but in reality The Ledge is a dull and intellectually vacuous melodrama in which two boorish and overbearing misogynists battle for ownership of a woman so impassive she might as well be inflatable.
Mathew Chapman’s latest film presents itself as an intelligent
thriller that deals with the conflict between religious and secular worldviews
but in reality The Ledge is a dull
and intellectually vacuous melodrama in which two boorish and overbearing misogynists
battle for ownership of a woman so impassive she might as well be inflatable.
The film opens with atheistic Gavin
(Hunnam) standing on the ledge of a
skyscraper. When a policeman asks him to reconsider what it is that he is about
to do, Gavin explains that unless he commits suicide another person will have
to die. The Ledge is the story of how Gavin wound up on that ledge and why it
is that he now feels compelled to kill himself.
Gavin’s journey to the ledge begins
when he hires the beautiful Shana (Tyler)
to work in his hotel. In order to thank Gavin for his kindness, Shana invites
him to dinner with her husband Joe (Wilson).
Joe and Gavin hate each other on sight, as while Gavin is an atheist and Joe is
a fundamentalist Christian, both men are overbearingly self-righteous and
interpret any difference of opinion as a challenge to their masculinity. Thus, when
Joe mistakenly assumes that Gavin is gay, Gavin hatches a plot to manipulate Shana
into falling in love with him.
Despite ostensibly resembling a
thriller, The Ledge is actually quite a talky and slow-paced film constructed
around a series of set pieces in which characters deliver extended speeches for
and against a belief in God. Given that Chapman places so much emphasis on
these speeches it seems safe to assume that The Ledge is intended to be a film
about ideas. Unfortunately, Chapman’s attempt to make a film about the clash
between atheism and religion fails on two levels: Firstly, none of the ideas
contained in The Ledge are particularly new or profound. In fact, the characters
of Gavin and Joe are so unsympathetic and intellectually stilted that it
rapidly becomes clear that Chapman has just as little insight into atheism as
he does into religious fundamentalism. Instead of providing us with
well-rounded characters and thought-provoking ideas, Chapman delivers banal
caricatures filled with nothing more than hot air. Secondly, despite bloating
the film’s running time and draining the thriller elements of all urgency and
tension, the polemical aspects of the film are so poorly integrated into the
plot that they seem more like a distraction than a primary focus. Look beyond
the PR guff about ideas and The Ledge reveals itself to be little more than a squalid
melodrama about a traditional love triangle.
Even more problematic is that, once
you strip away all the God-talk, The Ledge is revealed to be a deeply misogynistic
piece of filmmaking. At the heart of the film is a confrontation between two
individuals who are so convinced of their moral and psychological superiority
that they feel utterly entitled to the love of a beautiful woman. Indeed, while
Joe dominates Shana by dragging her to a series of increasingly repressive
churches, Gavin dominates her using mind games designed to make her fall in
love with him. The Ledge is a profoundly misogynistic film because both forms
of domination not only succeed but also go completely unchallenged by a
director who refuses us all access to Shana’s thoughts and feelings. Denied
both agency and meaningful self-expression, the character of Shana is nothing
more than an empty vessel for the desires of selfish and hateful men. Time and
again, Shana is given the opportunity to speak up for herself but instead Tyler
simply stares impassively into the camera like a beautiful doll whose sole
purpose in life is to be owned by an alpha male.
Why do all the characters explain
their backstories despite these backstories having no relevance to the plot?
Why does it look as though the entire film was shot in someone’s basement? Why
didn’t Gavin simply explain the hostage situation to the cop rather than
spending an hour and a half telling him his life story? Why didn’t Shana just leave
her divorce or tell him that she was unhappy? What was the point of the subplot
involving the infertile cop? These are all valid questions and yet none of them
have answers because The Ledge is a film of such pompous imbecility, moral
complacency and technical incompetence that it makes the remake of The Wicker Man look like Stalker. This isn’t a film; it’s a