If you’re like most American’s, you didn’t hear much about Seraphim Falls. While the trailer was on Apple’s QuickTime website before its release, that’s probably as much exposure as the film got. Never once did I see a trailer for the film on TV and checking around the web it’s easy to see why: the film’s widest release was fifty-two theaters and the worldwide gross was under half a million. It’s rather shocking to see a film with two household names, Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson, coming in and leaving theaters almost as fast as it arrived.
Still, that’s the one benefit of the DVD format. More than ever, people are picking up titles they never would on VHS, either to beef up their collections or just because it’s often more affordable to blind buy a DVD than it was a VHS. I hope this film manages to find a bigger audience on DVD, as it’s worth seeing at least once.
The story of Seraphim Falls is a typical revenge story and a game of cat and mouse throughout. Ex-Union Captain Gideon (Brosnan) ordered out an act on ex-Confederate Colonel Carver’s family that caused Carver to exact his revenge out on Gideon five years after the end of the Civil War. The film starts out with Gideon on the run from Carver and the entire film, sans for a flashback, is taken up by their chase as well. This may sound like it makes for a boring movie, but it is kept fresh by the expenditure of Carver’s posse (a total of five, including Carver, start out in the beginning of the movie), one by one. Each death seems to get more brutal than the next and the final one, involving a horse, is just about the most disturbing thing I think I could have seen come from a western. The scene is set up like just about every other one where the posse members die, so what ends up happening is not what one expects.
One minor qualm I have with the film is some of the directing. It, for the most part, is fine and the cinematography is gorgeous (especially the over-exposed, “white hot” railroad building scene and the final showdown), but I realized after watching the film that the directing made the film not feel like a true movie. Looking at the directors past directorial jobs, you see that the majority are all television which has a slightly different feel from movies—perhaps this is the explanation, but even then I don’t feel comfortable calling this movie a “made for TV movie.” Not just because of the cast, but more so because the story and settings are so remarkably done. Perhaps this is how most westerns feel –I’ve seen very few, so this could be the reason.
The finale of the film doesn’t end like typical westerns. While there is a shootout, it doesn’t play out in the fashion one would expect. Its set up with Madame Louise Fair, a “cure all” peddler, giving a worn out and down Gideon and Carver a single bullet each. When the two finally catch up to each other, Gideon fires first and drops Carver to the ground. What’s great about the ending is that you fully expect Carver to fire back when Gideon approaches him, as the two lying dead in the desert after an encounter with Louise Fair, who gives off the feeling of the Devil (as she startles both men with her random appearance in the vast desert land where there isn’t anyone around for miles) would make for a fitting end. Instead we’re given a remarkable ending, especially after we see what caused the hatred Carver felt for Gideon that leaves the viewer a bit bewildered but pleased with the outcome.
Even if you’re not a fan of westerns, the films more about redemption and revenge than a wild west shoot out. All the actors in the film do a remarkable job, especially Brosnan who gives a hard-to-watch bullet removal scene early in the movie that makes one cringe, amidst his various grunts and groans that we hear from him (I believe he grunted more than he spoke). Neeson plays his character just right, offering sympathy to anyone but Gideon and without Neeson in the part of Carver, it’s hard to see the film going anywhere else. The film also packs a remarkable supporting cast, ranging from Angie Harmon to Xander Berkely to Anjelica Houston, who all play their parts beautifully, even with their short screen time.
Overall I really do hope this film gets a bigger audience. Despite the odd feeling the directing gives me, it’s well worth watching and worth a rental in the very least and while it certainly won’t be one of the most re-watched titles in my library, it’s one worth keeping. When the film arrives, be sure to check it out, as I heartily recommend it.
Seraphim Falls arrives on DVD in a single disc release in a standard amaray case. No insert is given for this movie, although there is a great shot on the disc art, with Brosnan’s character on the left and Neeson’s on the right in a bright white setting. It’s a great image that sets the mood for the movie straight away. Menu’s are static without music and are easy to navigate (due to there being so few menus, undoubtedly).
The film comes with a superb video transfer and a satisfying 5.1 track. While the surrounds aren’t used too much (some snapping twigs and such would have been nice in the forest scenes), the infrequent gun shots (even though it’s a western, not much shooting goes on) pound out from the subwoofer, as does Gideon’s ride down the rapids. Overall it’s a satisfying technical package, especially with the video showing off the gorgeous cinematography. The scenes on the railroad and the final desert shootout, as I said above, are beautiful to look at with its blown out contrast that make the scenes feel white hot and desolate.
On the special features front is a full-length commentary by Pierce Brosnan, writer/director David Von Ancken and production designer Michael Hanan. The commentary is insightful and gives us a look into the world of Seraphim Falls. This is a great extra as it’s only one of two on the set, but by having a commentary we get to hear more about the film for the near two hours it runs, making the fewer special features easier to swallow. Brosnan, von Ancken and Hanan are all quite interesting on the track as well, offering their thoughts on the characters and progression of the film. For fans of the film, it’s a great listen.
The other special feature, “Behind the Scenes of Seraphim Falls”, gives a great look at the film. It’s a super condensed versions of most DVDs library of special features, with the featurette packing interviews with cast and crew (including Brosnan and Neeson) that ranges from the films creation, to the directing, cinematography and costumes. It’s a bit short to pack all of that into, but for a small release this film got, it’s a satisfying look into the world of the film. Combined with the commentary, we get a great peek into just how much fun and hard work into this film.
Fans of the western genre will want to own it and while the special features are sparse, the video and audio and commentary make up for the weaknesses on the disc. Overall this film is at the very least worth a rental and comes Recommended.
Seraphim Falls arrives on DVD May 15th.