Wednesday, February 8, 2006
A History of Violence (2005)
Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) thwarts a robbery and probably worse at his small-town diner, and becomes a local hero. The ensuing press attention puts him on the radar of some creepy underworld types who claim to recognize Tom as "Joey" from some time back in Philly. Oops. The problem: Tom is a settled family man, docile and soft-spoken, lovely wife, two kids, rural home, all of which seems at odds with the kind of guy who would attract scarred-up gangster-types. Eventually Stall must answer to who he was (or at least to whom these men accuse him of being) in order to continue as, if not preserve, who he is. Not since The Dead Zone (1983) has David Cronenberg served up such a masterful depiction of extra-normal horror lurking behind the thin facade of everyday life. In this case there's nothing overtly supernatural in the story: the monster in question is Tom's past. The film explores the deceptive territory between what we've witnessed and can vouch for in our loved ones, the shared time and trust -- and that which we can never know, secrets buried by calendar pages and strategic silences. Where is the tipping point toward deception? Perhaps more to the point: when should we ask that of ourselves? Cronenberg never maps out easy answers, and this film ends -- in a sublime dialogue-free scene -- just as the biggest question is raised. A meaty, intelligent psychological thriller.
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