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Out of The Furnace (2013)

Review: written Aug 2014

Working man’s drama – slowburn and compelling, if predictable

Out of The Furnace (2013)

The steel town, working man’s America and washed out palette evokes comparisons with The Deerhunter in this compelling and gritty drama. The performances are certainly in the same ballpark, intense and utterly believable, but ultimately it’s hard not to feel that the movie feels hollow by comparison. It just doesn’t seem to be about anything more than convincingly portraying the milieu and the characters. Convince it does though, with Christian Bale inhabiting the blue collar steel worker trying to make ends meet – he has the beautiful girlfriend (Zoe Zaldana who is a little underused here – this is a story about the men.), and he has family and is making ends meet. His brother has returned from Iraq physically untouched but mentally and emotionally scarred. It’s clear he has not found the balance in his life – and his descent into the world of bare knuckle boxing to alleviate gambling debts eventually drags his brother down.

Believability really is the order of the day, with everyone concerned (Harrelson and Whitaker as well as Bale and Casey Affleck) at the top of their game. The production design and photography really nails the atmosphere, too. So what of the story – well, it is compelling while you watch the drama unfold, even when the ending grows increasingly predictable or inevitable. A more fashionable kinetic style is eschewed for old fashioned slow burn storytelling - and the movie and viewer benefit from this. The director has stated his desire to immerse the viewer in his movies, and you will feel immersed here for sure. All of this makes a worthwhile watch – but it fails by a long chalk to reach 5 star territory by just not having a strong enough reason for being. There’s a thin line between balance in life and a spiral descent into despair or catastrophe, the movie seems to say, but it doesn’t seem to say much else. If the mise-en-scene and acting are masterclass, the story seems screenplay 101 by comparison. I guess there is a thin line between good drama and classic drama, too. Still, for a moody tale well told, well acted, well shot and well directed we shouldn’t quibble, this is still worthy of recommendation.

Out of The Furnace (2013)

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