Film Review: Warrior

Despite a fairly predictable plot, Warrior is an incredibly absorbing film. The film pulls in viewers from the beginning, and does not relent until the very end.

A former soldier returns to his father’s home after a lengthy absence. His father is a recovering alcoholic and former trainer. Tom allows his father to train him for a mixed martial arts tournament. At the same time, Tom’s brother Brendan begins to train, hoping the money from tournaments will help to solve his family’s financial problems…

Treading a similar path to David O. Russell’s The Fighter, Warrior focuses on an against-the-odds battle. The twist here, however, is that both brothers are competing for the same prize. Gavin O’Connor’s film is curious in the way that it shapes the two protagonists. From the outset, the fractured nature of Tom and his father’s relationship is made clear. Yet Brendan’s relationship with Tom remains ambiguous. Thus, as the film progresses, viewers await this non-violent confrontation as much as they await the fight.

Another facet which makes Warrior interesting is the dual protagonist form. Both Tom and Brendan are after the same prize, and both have good reasons for pursuing it. The brothers are both characters that the audience roots for. The inevitable conflict arises when they are pitted against each other. There is a tension in who to root for, as you hope both will be successful. The ending feeds into this, perhaps not giving the closure which viewers may desire.

O’Connor’s camera work is engineered to create a certain kind of atmosphere. The entire film is made up of handheld shots. This works exceptional well in the fight sequences, giving the impression of actually being at the event with the obscured vision and fluidity. Nevertheless, the constant motion in the other scenes can be dizzying at times. There is an intensity to the film that is unrelenting. This is aided by the method in which Warrior starts and ends, but also by the pacing, editing and camera work.

Tom Hardy offers a solid performance as Tom, in a physically demanding role. As family man Brendan, Joel Edgerton has the opportunity to show a slightly wider range. Nick Nolte offers an accomplished performance as Paddy Conlon, father of the two brothers.

Warrior is a fine sports movie, offering an intensity that has been rarely matched by films in this category.

Film Review: The Fighter

The Fighter is set in 1993, a time when few would have believed Marky Mark’s career would have longevity, let alone that he would deliver award-worthy performances. Nonetheless, Mark Wahlberg’s acting is not even the highlight of The Fighter, a film that boasts great writing and superlative performances.

A low-level boxer dreaming of success, Mickey Ward is always in his brother Dickie Eklund’s shadow. A former boxer with a drug addiction, Dickie thinks he is going to make a comeback. However, it is Mickey’s career that is on the up, and his older brother has a significant part to play…

Based on the true story of Mickey Ward’s rise to success, The Fighter is an incredibly engaging movie. Although it is a story about boxing, the film primarily focuses on the very personal story behind the sportsman. The Fighter is more concerned with relationship dynamics than accounting Mickey’s triumphs. It is this that give the film its heart, and compels the audience to root for Mickey Ward during the matches.

Screenwriters Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson infuse the narrative with both emotion and comedy. The dialogue is fantastic; it generates a surprising amount of humour. The Fighter is so effective because it easily flits between poignancy and absurdity. A heartfelt conversation between the two brothers can be quickly followed by some humorous interaction between Alice and her daughters, for example.

David O. Russell directs The Fighter with aplomb. The film never really feels like it is building in momentum; it feels like an exploration of the characters’ lives rather than a path to a big climax. The film may have dragged in another director’s hands, but Russell crafts his characters with care and attention. He depicts a multi-faceted group who all have Mickey’s best interests at heart, despite some of their actions.

What is most interesting about the visual style of the film is the use of television-style footage. At the beginning of the film, a camera crew follows Dickie around for a documentary. This is a great introduction to the characters, succinctly exhibiting how each of the brothers are treated. The boxing matches also employ this televisual appearance, which gives these scenes a heightened sense of realism. The fights do look like actual boxing matches; the violence of these bouts is more acute as a result.

Mark Wahlberg is brilliant as Mickey. Wahlberg offers a quiet, composed performance, which contrasts well with Christian Bale’s larger than life Dickie. Bale is fantastic as the drug-addled former boxer, giving one of his best performances to date. Melissa Leo is excellent as Alice Ward, often stealing scenes with her outlandish persona. Perfomances are great all round and the casting is on point, particularly with Amy Adams as Charlene and Alice’s daughters.

Falling somewhere between Raging Bull and Rocky in terms of tone, The Fighter is a very enjoyable film. Highly recommended viewing.