Thursday, 25 August 2011

Film Review: The Ledge

Gavin (Hunnam) is goaded to the ledge of a high-rise building in a theological double-dare where he is offered until noon to make the fateful decision whether to jump or not. Cop Hollis (Howard), experiencing his own existential crisis, is sent to talk Gavin out of it as The Ledge attempts to explore those hot topics of religion and atheism.

The Ledge is an overwrought criticism of religion where its characters are draped in melodramatic explanations as to their world view, only serving to undermine the central theme that religion is bunk. Indeed, its arguments are vacuous and lacking in depth, merely treading on familiar territory. The Ledge is such a vehemently one-sided debate that it's not even interesting, seeking only to chastise those of faith. Ironically it portrays atheists to be just as morally decrepit and intolerant as the religious freakazoids writer/director Matthew Chapman so hates. For example, the film works through a series of flashbacks as where Gavin gets involved in a love triangle battled out against the backdrop of a theological debate. This serves to spur Gavin on to teach fundamentalist Joe a lesson by corrupting his wife Shana (Tyler) for the sole vindictive purpose of showing his utter contempt for Joe's religious beliefs. Gavin, the film's 'hero' and supposed vehicle for rational atheism, is no better than nutcase Joe. For all intents and purposes he is a pompous asshat who's so self-assured that he's right (ring any fundamentalist bells?) that it's his job to convert those of faith to his side. Gavin barks on about the believer's intolerance of other's lifestyles, only to show he is equally intolerant. All this achieves is to reinforce religious accusations that atheists are morally bankrupt in the same way atheists make people of faith out to be self-righteous pricks.

The acting isn't great either. This is particularly surprising from Sons of Anarchy's Hunnam, who is excellent in the critically acclaimed TV series. He seems contrived and forced in a Hallmark channel drama kind of way. Other performances vary from mere mediocrity to equally slipshod as characters remain one-dimensional and exist merely to add fuel to the fire in sake of the film's philosophical 'arguments'. Patrick Wilson's Joe has been made so mentally unhinged that any debate with him is inherently unfair. Liv Tyler's occupies the anchor role, once again playing that blank, pallid female she seems so adept to. Vapidly vulnerable and having no opinion of her own, she is easily swayed in some vain attempt to add an element of pathos to proceedings. Chapman tries to ward of accusations of bias through Howard's character, portrayed to be the redeeming face of religion. However his banal subplot of bringing up someone else's kids all these years after finding out he's sterile is scarcely dealt with in a satisfying manner. Yes, it shows that religious people can also be mild-mannered and sound of mind while also displaying positive qualities of forgiveness, but his melodramatic tale acts more as just a device to keep the main plot ticking over until the film is over. Moreover all the character's social interactions with one-another are wholly unbelievable, particularly that between Gavin and Joe who take preordained pot shots at each other without ever getting intellectually intriguing.

The Ledge delivers hollow polemic, derisory dialogue and drab drama. It maintains a stale dramatic formula from the cheesy dramas of the nineties and is a film which exists only to display contrived contempt for the religion in the most preachy and verbose manner imaginable. If this wasn't so gulling it might actually be interesting.