In The Brave One Jodie Foster achieves in a revenge drama what she has already done in serial killer films, crime dramas and even comedies about poker – she makes an average film watchable.
Erica Bain (Foster) is a NYC radio host, in a show dedicated to the city she grew up in and loves. She is thoughtful and intelligent, calm and loving. Most of all she is unafraid of her city, embracing its sounds and smells, and wandering around it without fear. Engaged to doctor David (Naveen Andrews), they are out walking one night in Central Park and are set upon by a violent group of thugs. The psychic scars that remain after she physically recovers lay the groundwork for a new twist on her radio tagline of ‘I walk the streets’.
It is truly amazing to witness the power of Jodie Foster. The audience is subjected to all kinds of fuzzy logic and dubious plot turns in The Brave One, and yet coming out of the cinema one may feel they have just witnessed a really great film. It is only on reflection that the marked inconsistencies and the failure of the script are obvious, and this illusion of competence comes down solely to Foster’s performance. Her Erica is vulnerable and strong, smart and naive, conflicted and yet assured. The rare actors who could play this role and allow the multiple dualities to show are worth their weight in gold, and Foster is right out at the front of that group.
The problems are many, and they start with the plot. Why spend an entire film building a quiet drama about a crisis of self, interweaving meditation on the role of the individual and the police, and then throw it all away with a neat ending that ties everything up with a nice red bow and leaves the audience feeling all warm and snugly? This incredible wastefulness is all the more obvious as the final ten minutes are strikingly misplaced following the preceding 100 or so. The outcomes belong in another era, when film audiences were thought to require a happy ending, not today when we are given far more credit. One wonders how the ending of this film can have been written by the same team as the remainder.
In his attempt to direct a woman living in a world of greys, Neil Jordan has allowed his film to develop without any black or white. It is not clear whether he was hoping to make a coherent statement on vigilantism and justice, or on the effects of violence on the victims. What he has achieved is a film without any signposts as to how he feels about Erica and her actions. Erica herself spends moments torn between horror at who she is becoming and almost a sense of righteousness, and perhaps this was Jordan’s intention – to make a film that allows many interpretations and says as much about the viewer as it does the characters. Unfortunately, this never works.
The Brave One inhabits the modern space where good and evil blur, and there is no right or wrong. It never feels comfortable though, in the way The Departed absolutely revelled in its lack of certainty, and were it not for the astonishing powers of the incredible Jodie Foster, The Brave One may have ended up as yet another revenge drama with a bad ending.Rating: