Seraphim Falls is a western revenge tale, starring Pierce Brosnan as Gideon, a former Yankee officer in the Civil War, pursued by Carver (Liam Neeson), a former Confederate Colonel. Carver is a man obsessed, possessed and consumed with revenge, revenge on Gideon for a terrible atrocity he holds him accountable for.
Like any truly great Western, Seraphim Falls is a very bleak, sparse, empty film. The film starts in the snowy heights of the mountains, with Gideon alone, attempting to cook himself some beans on an open fire, when a shot pierces the silence and Gideon's left arm. With that, he turns tail and runs. Gideon does not utter anything more than grunts of exertion and cries of pain for the first 16 minutes of the film, at which point we hear him whisper "Oh God…"
For much of the film, we do not know why Carver hunts Gideon nor how long he has done so, only that he does so with a terrifying intensity. In fact, it is a full 45 minutes into the film before we are give the first glimpse into why Carver hunts Gideon – Carver simply answers that question with "Seraphim Falls" – and another 20 minutes after that before we see the complete picture.
Interestingly, we a wonderful scenario where the men aiding Carver build up a picture of Gideon as an animalistic killer, while Gideon views Carver as a relentless hunter. We, the audience, see enough to know that neither of these pictures is complete – we know that Gideon is desperate to survive and that Carver has been hollowed by pain and the dreams of revenge.
The landscapes, though stunningly beautiful, are barren and bleak, beginning with the unforgiving snowy slopes of the mountain, descending to the empty plains and ending at the desolate desert. This decent of the film's action is mirrored by the decent of the characters, especially Carver, into desperation and madness, culminating in the final delirious confrontation on the desert floor. In stark contrast to Gideon's opening cry, Carver quips that there "ain't no God out here".
Brosnan and Neeson are simply superb here, both utterly convincing in their roles – Brosnan managing a wonderfully weary defiance, while Neeson wonderfully portrays a man, bored hollow by hatred and filled with nothing but revenge. The locations are nothing short of stunning, while the Harry Gregson-Williams score is a beautiful accompaniment (though sadly, has not been released as a soundtrack).
I would be doing this film a huge disservice if I said that it was anything less than the best western I've seen in years, and an excellent film to boot. A.
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