Film Review – Brimstone (2016)

Title – Brimstone (2016)

Director – Martin Koolhoven (Winter in Wartime)

Cast – Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Emilia Jones, Kit Harrington, Carice van Houten, William Houston

Plot – In the harsh surrounds of the Wild West, mute girl Liz (Fanning) battles to keep her way of life alive after a mysterious and seemingly nefarious reverend (Pearce) arrives in her small town.

“People think it’s the flames that make Hell unbearable. It’s not. It is the absence of love”

Review by Eddie on 25/07/2017

I’ve seen a number of films in my lifetime, more than I’d care to count but there’s barely a film that I can recall being bleaker, more downright depressing and genuinely tortuous as Martin Koolhoven’s Western epic Brimstone.

Without an ounce of light or sunshine for over 140 minutes of runtime, Brimstone’s ability to throw its characters and in turn its viewers under the bus time after time is some sort of feat and makes films like Dancer in the Dark and The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas seem like a walk in the park and in an odd way this makes Brimstone noteworthy for Koolhoven’s ability to stay stern in his vision in offering up an unflattering view of humankind, in the unforgiving surrounds of the American wild west.

A passion project for the Dutch director and one that he fought hard to have final say over, Brimstone’s non-formulaic telling of Dakota Fanning’s mute Liz’s battle with Guy Pearce’s demented, sadistic and purely evil reverend is told in chapters that take us continually back in time too offer an insight into what set up this seemingly endless fight between the two characters, is a narrative that will have many turning off the film before it even threatens to culminate into its long coming conclusion.

There’s beatings, abuse, animal killings, despicable acts of violence and Kit Harrington’s crimes against acting and nothing in Brimstone feels like it was over before we knew it, Koolhoven wants us too feel every little glum moment of these characters torments, both inwardly and outwardly and its within his stoic commitment too not shy away from these atrocities that he draws out a noteworthy turn from his main actresses Dakota Fanning and Emilia Jones as the young Joanna.

Often not allowed to act through words, Fanning delivers one of her best turns outside of her early I Am Sam and Man on Fire work while relative newcomer Jones does a fine job of being a part of a narrative that doesn’t hold back any of its punches for its young star.

Where Brimstone falls down in a major way is with Pearce’s turn as the reverend. The Australian actor goes too the store and buys out the deli of ham with his badly Dutch accented, child abusing and Abide with Me Singing maniac. It’s not an easy role, Pearce has too act out and deliver some gruelling acts but had the actor or perhaps another performer nailed the role, Brimstone’s consistently depressing nature could’ve been elevated by a great performance of one of recent cinemas most atrocious villains.

Final Say –

Brimstone is an extremely tough watch, one that will have many unable too bare it and while this sometimes starkly captivating Western like none other is at times haunting in its vision, you can’t help but escape the feeling that this harrowing experience isn’t worth the arduous journey come the finale, despite the best efforts of its two lead female performers.

2 entrails out of 5  

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