Monday, August 3, 2009

The Brave One.

"There is no going back, to that other person, that other place. This thing, this stranger, she is all you are now." - Erica Bain, in The Brave One.

Welcome to the world of the attacked. Say hello to the people who have come face-to-face with real crime, the people who want to fight back instead of waiting for the police or the government to take action. Neil Jordan's 2007 movie The Brave One deals with a subject especially close to my heart - is it possible to carry on after being a victim, or should one take a stand?

In the film, Erica Bain (Jodie Foster), a radio show host, is attacked while out on a walk with her boyfriend David (Naveen Andrews). David succumbs to his injuries, and Erica is left to carry on with her life, but she makes a choice not to be a victim any longer, to fight back against those who harrass her on the Subway and in other places, those who deprive others of their right to life and property. She becomes a vigilante of sorts, protecting herself and others from being victims of crime. Enter Detective Mercer (Terence Howard) who is investigating the killings, the archetype of the 'good cop'.

Jodie Foster excels, as usual. The film belongs to her, through and through. You can see the fear in her eyes, the rage and the decision to fight. Foster always seems to carry through the role of the "strong woman" well - be it in this movie, or in Panic Room, or even in Flightplan. Terence Howard is good as well, puts in a solid and stable performance. The soundtrack is brilliant - the song "Answer" by Sarah McLachlan, in particular.

There is plenty wrong with the movie, though. Firstly, there is the rather unimaginative title. Secondly, Erica learns to handle a gun with unusual ease, and that's where the movie begins to get unrealistic. And then, there's the ending - you'd have bought it, had Detective Mercer not made overtly ethical speeches previously, that he would have the strength to put away someone he likes. But as it stands, the ending leaves a rather sour after-taste. It's predictable, and spoils what could have been a near-perfect movie.

But The Brave One wins brownie points for dealing with a subject that we should all think about. What do we do when attacked? Do we simply carry on, and avoid the chances of more attacks? Do we lock ourselves up and refuse to face a crime-infested world? Or do we go out there, with a promise to be stronger next time, to stand up for our rights? The movie makes you consider whether it's ethical to kill other killers, whether the idea of a vigilante is a suitable one, and whether criminals should be given a taste of their own medicine.

Despite being unrealistic and unpredictable at times, it's a movie that everyone should watch - anyone who has ever had a wallet snatched, anyone who has been given the occasion feel-up on a crowded street, anyone who has ever been beaten up by a gang of thugs. It's for you, and you, and you - all of you who have had to deal with trauma and terror. Perhaps taking a gun and shooting the wrong-doers out there is a little extreme, but the movie seems to tell you that there's no point being a victim any longer. I've been a victim, and I identify with the rage that Erica feels.

Sometimes, the line between ethics and revenge is a very fine one. And it's tempting to cross it.