Director: Martin Koolhoven
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Kit Harington, Carice van Houten USA 2h 28m
Holymoly! I actually bothered to watch the trailer for this as Guy Pearce has actually become an amazingly versatile and seasoned actor who astounds me more and more as his career grows, and he has a particular edge to him when playing “the bad guy” and it was very evident that he is the ultimate bad ass in this film and continued to out do himself until the very end. Also there was a consolation prize that Datkoa is mute in the movie (sadly not all of it) but a majority and actually had to act which was a mad change.
So why did this dark story enthral me so much, well it’s dark, dark as fuck.. when it comes to modern western style films it’s what draws me to them, and this foreboding and engaging film stirs and disturbs at the same time and is surprisingly worth the two and half hours dedication.
Told in four torrid chapters, each darker and more gut wrenching than the last, a story starts to unfold from the beginning and end. Liz (Fanning) is a mute midwife, with her daughter, step son and she flees the persecution of a mourning father and a new preacher who she has an instant distaste for.. after seeing him brutally maim her husband in a way which forces her to have to put him out of his misery, we’re slowly lead through the chapters of her life growing up in a rough chronological order, we see how this Dutch immigrant took hold of a town with his tales of angelic visitations, and how he made the lives of any woman around him an abject hell. The persecution of women it a long running theme in the film, the easy connection is how females are perceived by the christian church and I’m sure feminist will be running with this story for a while. Her mother Anna (Carice van Houten) is slowly broken down, the verbal abuse turns into public humiliation and then beatings which goes beyond a point I fathomed. The young girl accidentally finds herself taken in at a whorehouse where she’s protected at first by a woman who is then hung for her actions, her best friend brutalised for sticking up for herself and slowly the world turns against her, when “he” arrives again, The Reverend is constantly on her heels throughout her life, like a demon possessed, a sort of Dutch western terminator.
His cruelty really does escalate dramatically as the film progresses, and there are some scenes where I don’t understand how he survived, he really does have 9 lives, and this leads to a few minor plot holes that could have be detailed better. But still it’s plain to see the man’s black intensity and a lot of it comes from some sterling acting from Pearce. Taking the purely from his debauched character in Lawless (2012) and feeling comfortable in the historic setting as with Ravenous (1999) he really does permeate of nostalgia.
As the mood and world around Liz and her child/step child starts to freeze the final chapter of the movie sees them moving north along a frozen track to stay with her now late husband’s father, they are stalked as if by a wolf, as The Reverend; oozing rancid obsession intensifies until there is a much anticipated showdown, then finally an incredibly twisted ending.
Much about the film is bitter and sweet, and the theme of muteness runs from the surface to the core, the main character is not heard as a child, her mother is forced to wear a interpretation of a scold’s bridle and made mute, women all around her are constantly silenced. So much could be said about women speaking out, but this goes down to the muted tones and quiet scenes, the world is drafted out in such isolation, the landscapes are barren, the atmosphere can be cut with a knife at all times.
For me it was brilliant that I didn’t have to listen to Dakota as her voice grates on me since War of the Worlds (2005) but she does prove herself at times in the film but the show is stolen by her younger self Emilia Jones and Guy Pearce; who manages to pull of a fairly convincing accent; although it would have been interesting to hear him speak Dutch in at least one scene. His scarred appearance and animalistic nature really does transform the character into a monster and one without out bounds and a moral compass that is constantly spinning. He is the devil in the night, a European Anton Chigurh, a stalking wolf seeking an innocent lamb all rolled into one.
Brimstone is definitely love at first sight I can’t wait to watch this again, the violence is psychological and brutally physical, there isn’t a huge amount but when it happens it’s gut wrenching and often quite bloody. The story is gripping and ever changing, it’s one of the few rare epics that needs the time as the story eats it up.Speaking volumes about how women have been mistreated and that there is hope for human rights.
R – No Country for Old Men (2007), Ravenous (1999)
L – Favourite Westerns
5S – Guy Pearce