Lowdown: A detective’s daughter is shot at his doorstep, and in contrast to popular opinion it seems the detective was not the target.
If Hitler was a good painter, would I be able to admire his pictures? That theoretical question about the shady border between art and the people behind it is a question that popped to my head as I watched Edge of Darkness. This is because Edge of Darkness is the latest film starring Mel Gibson after the guy took a bit of a break from movie making. Gibson, I couldn’t help notice, is a guy that seriously thinks I am responsible to many of this world’s problems. He is also a guy that genuinely believes I am going to burn in hell for an eternity. Can I enjoy a film whose main attention grabber such a person?
Edge of Darkness tells us of a puritan police detective Thomas Craven (Gibson) living and working in Boston. He picks his bright MIT daughter with whom he hasn’t been in particularly good contact over the years from the train station and brings her home. Shortly after, as the two stand by their doorstep, someone shouts “Craven” and blasts the daughter with a shotgun. Everyone assumes the father was the target of a criminal he helped put behind bars, but slowly it appears as if that might not have been the case. Things unravel fast as Craven visits the nuclear facility his daughter worked for.
Directed very clinically but not inspirationally by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), Edge of Darkness is a reboot of Campbell’s 1985 TV mini series dealing with atomic hazards. I guess the subject matter received a boost given recent events in Japan, but regardless of that Edge of Darkness is a pretty effective thriller. The film deals with some important ethical concerns, mainly involving the sacrifices of one or a few to save the many. These themes are handled in a manner that explicitly suggests the saint rising from the dead, therefore you can easily see why Gibson might have found this particular role appealing. Indeed, Gibson feels right at home, performing in a manner not unlike the more serious moments of Lethal Weapon's. As much as the question of tolerating him had bugged me, I have to say Gibson fits Edge of Darkness like a glove.
Which brings me back to the question of whether it is possible to enjoy a film when its star induces justified negative reactions. My answer? Yes, I was able to enjoy Edge of Darkness; I quite enjoyed it, matter of fact. Gibson’s character, with his attire and posture, even reminded me of the deceased uncle of mine that I loved so much; it would be hard for me to come up with a greater compliment. I’ll put it another way: being able to enjoy the helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now, with its Wagner music, does not make a Nazi out of me in any possible way.
Leaving Gibson aside, I have to say I greatly enjoyed the performance given by Ray Winstone. Playing a British mop-up “consultant” hired by the baddies, Winstone manages to play up both sides of the ethical dilemma extremely effectively. So effectively that he points at a major reliability problem with the film, which is – how come the Gibson character is allowed to live for as long as it needs to get into the bottom of things.
Best scene: Gibson meets a terrified friend of his daughter’s at a remote area. The meeting is held in his car. The friend wants to get out of the car but stays, then wants to come out again and stays to provide yet another tip to Gibson, then… This well orchestrated scene feels like it came from a Hitchcock movie.
Technical assessment: While this Blu-ray offers fine picture quality, I couldn’t help being annoyed at the too subtle a role that sound plays in Edge of Darkness. The whole affair is pretty subdued, sound wise, other than for a few seconds long bursts of action.
Overall: A good thriller with something to think about that left me at the doldrums between 3 and 3.5 out of 5 stars.