The simple thrill of the chase is what’s presented to us in Seraphim Falls. Gideon (Pierce Brosnan), an ex-Union soldier and now a lone wolf in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains, is tirelessly chased by Confederate Colonel Morsman Carver (Liam Neeson) and a group of hired bounty hunters. Minimal dialogue and a complete lack of explanation of the motives for the chase mark the initial act of the film and hook the viewer in effectively. A simple but effective plot reveals intriguing detail after intriguing detail, as the hunter and hunted attempt to outwit each other and survive everything Nevada has to throw at them.
“What do you want?” “I’d have thought that was obvious seen-as how I’ve been shooting at you.”
Seraphim Falls was a small-fry financially; the film’s release in January 2007 unfortunately left it in the shadow of Epic Movie, which saw massive box office success while Seraphim Falls missed out. Equally, this film came along at a time when Westerns were struggling to attract audiences, and that no doubt further set back its box office takings.
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Don’t be put off though – this film is well worth your time. Two signature performances from Neeson and Brosnan help to give this film its grit. They’re both actors well suited to action and the dramatic chase at the core of this film is, in terms of performance, an ideal hunting ground for the pair. Brosnan probably has more to do in the way of heavy breathing than dialogue for the majority of his role and the opening sequences, littered with freezing rivers and snow-capped mountains, bring to mind comparable moments in 2015’s The Revenant. Brosnan and DiCaprio’s characters both share the unpleasant experience of being swept down rivers that make even the audience feel cold, and later in the film Gideon’s choice to hide inside an animal carcass draws even more direct comparisons. That’s not to say that the films are at all similar in their nature, but both portray struggles for human survival with memorable intensity.
The audience is drip-fed the duo’s past, and their motives, at a pace that leaves viewers hungry for more.
As more light is shed on the origins of the characters a more literal light is shed on their surroundings. Snowy hills give way to prairies, railway camps and sun-scorched desert, but the chase remains a constant. This simple, linear layout gives the film a real focus – some may criticise its simplicity but it’s an enjoyable format that is delivered without the complete sacrifice of character development. The mystery of the two men is woven through the film and the slow, gradual reveal is well executed. The audience is drip-fed the duo’s past, and their motives, at a pace that leaves viewers hungry for more.
Here is a film that embraces a simple format and executes it perfectly. Its financial failure is undeserved, the battle for survival that the two men go through during their epic chase is remarkable and the film’s climax is one that will live on in your memory long after the credits roll. Equally it has to be said that the two stars are very well suited to their roles, and seeing them face off is a delight – Seraphim Falls deserves more plaudits than it accrued at first time of asking, and is well worth seeking out.
By George Storr