Writer/director David Von Ancken offers up a gorgeous Civil War-era Western revenge drama in "Seraphim Falls", which stars Pierce Brosnan as Union colonel Gideon, who suddenly finds himself being shot at while walking in the mountains. He's being chased by Confederate general Carver (Liam Neeson), who is accompanied by a small band of men. While Gideon gets shot, he does manage to escape out of the woods.
It's within the first half hour that we realize this is not a film interested in focusing on anything but this chase (the first 20-25 minutes offer a chase scene that contains only a little bit of dialogue.) The film is fairly light on dialogue, offering just enough detail to offer over the course of the movie (with a fuller flashback towards the end) the backstory that has lead up to these characters being in the situation they're in.
The performances are stellar, as Brosnan offers a marvelous effort as the weary, haunted Gideon and Neeson's intense portrayal of a man determined to get revenge is riveting. Good supporting efforts from Michael Wincott, Tom Noonan and others. John Toll ("Thin Red Line", "Almost Famous") does a beautiful job capturing the gorgeous New Mexico and Oregon locations. Harry Gregson-Williams' also offers a moody, powerful score.
"Seraphim Falls" ends with a bizarre, surreal and hallucinatory ending in the middle of the desert (it even includes a random appearance by Angelica Huston, as a woman on a horse-driven cart selling a "cure-all" potion), but it's a beautiful, haunting and enjoyable surreal ending. Leading up to it is an impressive chase through snowy mountains all the way down to the dry, barren desert. There's not a great deal of plot, but writer/director Von Ancken manages to stage some intense action sequences, including one rather wild and unexpected surprise towards the end of the film.
"Seraphim Falls" isn't going to be everyone's cup-of-tea, but those seeking out a moody, atmospheric and old-fashioned Western about the futility of vengeance should consider giving it a look.
VIDEO: "Seraphim Falls" is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a beautiful presentation from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, showing off John Toll's magnificent cinematography well and making every last detail of the film's scenery apparent. The presentation did show a couple of instances of slight edge halos, but otherwise remained crisp and clean, with no print flaws or artifacting. Colors remained natural and appeared accurately presented, with no smearing or other issues. Black level remained solid, as well.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is excellent throughout the show. Although it's not an aggressive presentation, there's a good amount of ambience clearly heard throughout the show, as surrounds are used well to open up the audio and give viewers a solid sense of the surroundings and provide an engaging, enveloping audio experience. Audio quality is great, with crisp, natural-sounding dialogue and punchy effects.
EXTRAS: Commentary from director David Von Acken, Pierce Brosnan and production designer Michael Hanan. Although the commentary gets a little quieter as it goes on, the majority of the film has the group offering a spirited, informative discussion of the making of the film, with a few jokes about on-set happenings along the way. Overall, this was - at least up until towards the end - one of the more enjoyable commentaries I've listened to lately. We also get a nearly 20-minute "making of" featurette and trailers for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Seraphim Falls" isn't going to be everyone's cup-of-tea, but those seeking out a moody, atmospheric and old-fashioned Western should consider giving it a look. I thought the film, which I hadn't heard much about, was surprisingly enjoyable. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a few good extras. Definitely a recommended rental for those seeking a Western.
The Film B+