Day #2 – The most underrated movie

Tricky. Extremely relative. A great movie that got slated at the time? A wonderful film that bombed at the box office and thus has been ignored and consigned to late night TV and bargain bins? Or simply a movie that people should give more attention to regardless of any of these?

Right off the bat I’d say Creation but that’s simply by having watching it and loved it the other day. The emphasis on most here though suggested a tad more thought, and a reflection that imminence should not have precedence. Particularly so with the extra confusion of Day #18 A movie that you wish more people would’ve seen.

So I give you the above.

25th Hour - Spike Lee, Ed Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson.

I’ve been thinking about a whole bunch of movies with this option (my browser is currently stuffed with IMDb tabs), but 25th Hour has wormed its way in. Because although it did fairly well at the box office and has a dandy 78% rating, I strongly believe it was one of the most important movies that came out in the last decade. 

The cast are excellent (I can’t stand Anna Paquin, but I think that’s kind of the point) with Ed Norton in particular capping off his brilliant early run of Primal Fear, American History X and Fight Club of magnificent performances to deliver a performance of such subtle, yet utterly devastating switches in emotion. There’s pained detatchedness and simmering self-hatred to explosive rage, devastation and fear which - when combined with Spike Lee’s exquisitely masterful direction particularly - fully captures a man’s final day of freedom where everything is heightened and infinitely more meaningful.

But where the film becomes truly elevated is in its treatment of the events of 9/11. In many ways they are the punctuating, turning point in the narrative, just as much, perhaps even more so, than the last 24 hours of Monty Brogan’s previous life. As the film shifts between flashback and present tense, memories that haunt apartments and playgrounds are juxtaposed against wistful, unrealised dreams for the future. The sense of unbearable anguish on a national scale magnifies the turmoil that hangs around Monty and those closest to him within the movie, but beyond this lies a side narrative of a city just beginning to pick itself up again and go about it’s day to day, and it is in this grit and spirit that hope is provided amidst the atmosphere of gloom for both Monty and New York.

Yet even beyond this nuanced, simultaneously delicate and strikingly bold depiction of contemporary events, its power for us over ten years on is furthered by it’s nature as an eerily foreshadowing film. The recklessness of the investment banking culture, the collapse of which ultimately culminated in the economic crisis of 2008 is depicted early on in the guise of Generation X Gordon Gecko Frank Slaughtery, and in many ways Monty’s corrupted attempt at attaining the American dream resembles those of all the others which have been piling up in the USA like so many burnt out motors ever since. Transpose the drugs which have got Monty that car, that fancy apartment in New York, with cheap credit, sub-prime mortgages, the housing market bubble and the rest of the whole dismal mess, and here you have the essence of the bed (sofa?) of lies and unspoken truths that lay at the heart of many a household.

You can see what I’m trying to stab in the dark here, but you’ll also hopefully capture the extent to which I consider this film’s significance. It is not just a movie (despite being a truly great one, almost certainly in my Top 10), it is a text of our times. 

And that is why I feel it is underrated.