EDGE OF DARKNESS, 2010
As homicide detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) investigates the death of his activist daughter, he uncovers not only her secret life, but a corporate cover-up and government collusion that attracts an agent (Winstone) tasked with cleaning up the evidence.
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This is a little off subject, but it should probably be said. I understand the plight of marketing companies; how do you convince what is still a shrinking demographic of film-goers that the movie your selling is worth their time? Especially when the reality is quite outside of what looks on paper like their normal tastes. Something uncomplicated like "Transformers" or "Avatar" is relatively easy to explain in just a couple of minutes. But when you get to something grim and complex that has put a lot of its time and energy into character and dialog, well... There's a reason why drama's and character studies are most marketers worst nightmares. How do you instill motion and dynamism into something interested in being static?
What you get a lot of the time are crossed wire of the sort "Edge of Darkness" has ended up with, where it has been brought out to the world as some sort of prosaic, mawkish revenge film featuring Mel Gibson getting his own back from anyone what done him wrong. And anyone who bought a ticket wanting to see that movie could (and probably will) legitimately feel had. Certainly, if that's the movie you want to see, "Edge of Darkness" is not for you. Which is too bad, because it's really, really good.
Adapted from the landmark BBC mini-series by original director Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale"), "Edge of Darkness" is a polished piece of political suspense masquerading as a crime drama and pulling off both rather successfully. Which is a more difficult mix than it might sound, as even though both styles require a good bit of complex plotting and skulduggery, the large canvas of political thrillers don't always work with the smaller, personal stories crime plays so much with.
It really is to Campbell and screenwriters William Monahan ("The Departed") and Andrew Bovell ("Strictly Ballroom") that it works as well as it does. They've written a script specifically about a man and how he deals with some terrifically dark material, without ever being other than himself. And it is dark.
Craven soon learns that his daughter was a research assistant at Northmoor, a weapons lab pretending to be an environmental research facility, and if the bullets hadn't killed her the radiation poisoning she was suffering from would have.
Campbell has been a hit and miss director in the past (who would have believed the man who served up "No Retreat" was capable of "The Mask of Zorro") but he's firing on all cylinder's here. Suspense is where his real talents lie, despite all the action hoopla that often has to go with it, and it's in fine form throughout "Edge of Darkness." Sometimes it pokes it's head out and letting you know what you're in for and have no choice but to wait for it, and sometimes it comes out of nowhere like a speeding car. And it all works.
It's also, and this is the complicated part (especially from a marketing perspective) terrifically, terrifically slow.
The people behind Emma's poisoning are not some fools easily found out and then dispatched in a hail of machine gun fire. Nor is Craven some fool to think that, trapped in his rage and lashing out at the world. He is a calculating man who knows what he's going to do, and that's all there is to it.
It's one of Gibson's best performances in years (by which I mean even before he went on extended hiatus) only really matched in the film by Ray Wintone's Jedburgh, a CIA cleaner who has the thankless task of finding out which side of Emma's death the US government's interests lie on.
Which all sounds good, and it is, but it's not going to much for the adrenaline junky out there. "Edge of Darkness" is a film about good and evil and how men react to it. And while there is some excellently derived suspense, it's mainly a film about people sitting and talking. It's a testament to Campbell's skill and Monahan and Bovell's dialog that so many scenes of just sitting and talking can keep you on the edge of your seat.
In fact, it's only when the film does take its rare turns towards the action side of the entertainment fence that it feels false. All showy and superficial compared to what's come before.
But what's come before is awful good and if parts of the conclusion don't quite live up to the film, the sum of "Edge of Darkness" is definitely greater than its parts.
If what you really want is action and revenge, ignore everything I've just said. You'll hate "Edge of Darkness." But you're doing yourself almost as big a disservice as the films ads have.