Published by Brian Slezak on 25 Mar 2009
Pania went to bed early the other evening, and my mind was still awake even as tired as I seemed . While she slept I scrolled through the HBO on demand movies, finally coming to The Brave One. My memory sparked as I remembered wanting to see it after watching the trailer because I enjoy Jodie Foster in most of her movies. Impressed yet again with The Brave One, I was moved to write my off-the-cuff reaction. Spoilers follow – you’ve been warned.
I loved the way this film unraveled! The storyline revealed itself like a comic book, Batman for instance, but based itself more in reality than the fantastic. No caped crusader in this film; instead a petite woman, Erica, who is transformed by brutal violence into her darker self. After her fiance is beaten to death, and herself nearly so, she is reborn not into the light but into the dark. The same face in the mirror stares back at her as did before; she has not been physically altered, but a completely different person lives behind the same eyes.
The movie takes you through her downfall as she consciously and deliberately lets evil into her heart after defending herself in a convenience store robbery. She becomes a vigilante, consumed by the thrill of doing what she feels is good and right by eliminating evil from her city. The same evil that changed her forever, and killed her fiance. Her clothing through the film changes with her from white to gray and finally to black. We struggle with her as she knows what she is doing is wrong – it is killing; it is illegal. She swings from knowing she is right, to justifying her actions, to almost turning herself into authorities, and back again. At one point in the movie she gives away the crucifix necklace that was once her fiances, and she has been wearing throughout the movie, to a woman whose life she saved a few nights back. (She obviously does not truly understand what this symbol represents.) This done right in front of police officer and right after Erica asked the woman who she saw the night, and the woman replies no one.
I felt the movie struck a lot deeper than its surface appearance. The viewer has a connection to Erica, because in our hearts we want her to exact her revenge. She knows it’s wrong and so do we. What happened to her is horrible, and we want her attackers to be punished for what they did. Erica takes us down a the road where we choose dark. The movie made me feel that the dark is not just out there waiting for you to choose to step into it. The dark wants you. It is not waiting, but wanting. The dark wants us, because we want it. It is so natural in us even when we consciously know better. Choosing the light is so much harder. This was not a story of struggling with forgiveness.
Sadly, in true moral depravity that only Hollywood can produce, Erica not only exacts her revenge, she is justified by the police officer who is on to her throughout the movie and even instructed how to perform her crescendo of violence “legally.” The movie ends with Erica running away from the bloodbath that the officer has covered up, only to later stroll through the same dark tunnel where the story began – toward the light at the end of the tunnel. A better ending would be her walking into an ever darkening tunnel.
Aside from the ending (sigh) the movie is very well done, and is a present comic book story that is, scarily, easy to relate to. The lesson is how easy it is to relate to Erica’s dark desires, how easily they consumed her, and how quickly she fell away into the darkness. There is no light at the end of that tunnel folks. Revenge is not ours. If you found it easy to relate to Erica, you are not alone, but that does not make it just.