U.S. Release Date: September 14, 2007
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Neil Jordan
Producer: Susan Downey, Dana Goldberg (executive), Joel Silver
Composer: Dario Marianelli
Cast: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard
Running Time: 2 hours and 2 minutes
MPAA Rating: R (strong violence, language and some sexuality)

Thriller Taps Dark City Fears
by Scott Holleran

The tense psychological thriller The Brave One neatly exploits Jodie Foster's unique screen persona, leaving recently overplayed departures (Flightplan, Inside Man) in the dust and reclaiming her status as a reality-based protagonist.

Miss Foster plays Erica Bain, a New York City radio hostess whose observations on urban culture are her own peculiar domain. Engaged to a man (Naveen Andrews) whom she deeply loves, she is happy until a leisurely stroll turns into a monstrous criminal encounter that she, like many victims, finds herself reliving over and over. Erica's life changes in a snap.

As the case subsequently disappears into police bureaucracy, the stage is set for wounded Erica to absorb the modern city dweller's fears. They manifest themselves one by one, from a convenience store shooting to an assault by subway brutes with blades. One might say Erica, jolted by the stress of having to perform daily tasks amid a heightened sense of danger, deals with her anxiety head on. In petrified, post-traumatic Erica, The Brave One taps the sense of a person alone in the sudden awareness that she is abruptly, completely stranded in a place that was bustling not moments ago—aided only by a flickering street lamp. The whole movie feels like that.

What Erica does—buying a black market gun and using it case by case in separate retaliatory acts against injustice—may not be entirely earned, and it isn't, though Miss Foster, in her strained whisper, persuasively fires at will. Clinging to civilized behavior in a world dominated by terrorist threats, lurking menace and ineffectual authorities, Erica has been brutalized—and she's determined to make it stop. Urging her to take a break from broadcasting is her ratings-driven boss (Mary Steenburgen, excellent as usual).

Enter Terrence Howard as a bright but nearly broken divorced detective who cleverly matches, then gradually molds, the eerily expressive mistress of Manhattan's airwaves. He has his own beef with the judicial system but he still focuses on the facts at each crime scene. Without upstaging her—yet also without being downstaged by Miss Foster's intensity—Howard enunciates The Brave One's hazy theme that justice favors the fearless.

Of course, with narrowing corridors and other gimmicks, The Brave One trips on itself. Erica's transformation to cerebral vigilante is more suggested than demonstrated and important characters such as a perceptive neighbor, Howard's slow partner and an iPod-toting eyewitness are misused. Visual flourishes, such as contrasting images of sex and violence, offset The Brave One's moody metro-realism. That realism punctuates an interesting study of what it means to live in the modern metropolis.

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