The last time we saw Mel Gibson in anything memorable was, believe it or not, in Signs way back in 2002. In a recent interview, Gibson states it is because he felt like he was becoming “stale” as an actor. Well the break certainly seems to have done him a lot of good, as he delivers a raw, emotional and Oscar nomination worthy performance in Edge Of Darkness.
He stars as Tom Craven, a homicide detective who witnesses (I use that word lightly..) the murder of his daughter. The killer shouts “CRAVEN!” just before he shoots, leading detectives to believe that he was the intended target. Further investigation by Craven reveals this is not the case, and he uncovers not only her secret life, but a corporate cover-up and government collusion that attracts an agent tasked with cleaning up the evidence.
Okay, so we’re a month into 2010 and already we’ve had two misleading trailers. The first being for the dreadful Book Of Eli, and the second being Edge Of Darkness. Remember Taken, the excellent Liam Neeson action movie? You should, ’cause it was only 2 years ago. Anyway, the initial buzz about this movie was that it bore a striking resemblance to Taken; the daughter getting kidnapped/killed ( it’s same thing apparently…), the dads quest for revenge, lots of action scenes etc. Even the trailer gave a sense of this: the one liners were just amazing.
“You had better decide whether you’re hangin’ on the cross… or bangin’ in the nails.”
After hearing that, you’d expect Gibson to pummel whoever he said it to a quivering wreck. But no; that particular line is said at the end of a lengthy dialogue sequence, and Gibson just walks out the room after saying it.
Now I’m not complaining about that; in a way, Edge Of Darkness is similar to Taken, but the key difference E.O.D. has emotion. Real emotion. Sure, you feel for Neeson as he searches for his daughter, but the one key scene that stayed with me long after with E.O.D is Craven cradling his dying daughter in his arms. It really is heartbreaking, and exhibits just how good of an performer Gibson is.
Another misleading factor about this film is the opening 10 minutes. The transition from Craven meeting his daughter to her untimely demise on his doorstep is done very quick, not really allowing the viewer to get an idea of their relationship. However, there are various flashbacks that try and explain how close he was to his daughter.The pace is relatively fast; and this is where it is misleading. After these 10 minutes, the film slows down immensely compared to the opening scenes. Each scene has a lot of dialogue, but ends with a death, a chase or revelation. I actually really liked this formula, because when a new scene started, you knew something was going to happen that was important to the narrative.
One point I noticed with the plot is that although it’s masked as an intellectual thriller, when it’s all unravelled its nothing more than a clichéd action movie; revenge, nuclear weapons, corrupt corporate bad guy etc. Difference is, where True Lies made you go “OMG NUCLEAR WEAPONS!”, Edge Of Darkness makes you ponder “Hmm.. I wonder what other companies are making Nuclear Weapons..”Again, this is not necessarily a negative remark about the film, I actually see it as an interesting take on an overdone narrative.
This leads nicely onto the villain: Danny Huston. He plays Jack Bennett, the head of a company called Northmoor. The thing about Huston is that he has a face that instantly says “you can trust me.. but I’ll ultimately screw you over in the end”. He is the perfect choice for the “rent-a-corporate-badguy” role, closely followed by Sam Neill. He gives a great performance (as usual; he’s becoming a regular scene stealer) but just like everyone else in this film his skills are undermined by the Gibson master class.
EOD also stars Ray Winstone as.. well.. Ray Winstone. He plays the usual tough guy role, mumbling through most of his lines and not really doing much or having an explanation for being there. He is only really crucial to the story at the end, delivering one of the most bewildering one liners before killing someone.
The closing scenes are also very well done, depicting what it should very poignantly and gracefully.
I went into Edge Of Darkness with expectations of an average action movie that would be forgettable. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s none of those three. It is a thoughtful thriller that needs your whole attention throughout to have full emotional effect.