The Ledge (2011)
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Terrence Howard, Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson
Rated R (Nudity and Language)
3 Stars (out of 4)
The Ledge is now streaming on Amazon instant video.
The "Christian vs. atheist" element of this film is one of its main selling points. However, these aspects are only the surface of the characters. The motivations for the crimes and moral discrepancy in the film aren't fueled by religious beliefs or the lack thereof. These characters have big philosophies but their actions are primal. The film is accurate in its theory that lust and jealousy exist regardless of religious beliefs.
I'm pleasantly surprised at the atheist character (Gavin Nichols) played by Charlie Hunnam. This character is generally happy, tolerant and charitable. Gavin's friend lost his job after it was discovered he was gay, so Gavin let him move in to his apartment until he got back on his feet. Besides being gay, his friend was also a devout Jew who even had notions of being married to his partner by a rabbi. I'd say that's pretty tolerant for a heterosexual atheist. Another recent film that also had an "atheist vs. Christian" theme was HBO's The Sunset Limited. The atheist in that film was a depressed nihilist who wanted to throw himself in front of a train. So I'm glad that Gavin is able to live happily without the need for religion.
Gavin is a hotel manager. One day he gets to work and finds out that a potential employee is also a new neighbor. Shana and Joe (Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson) have just moved in down the hall from Gavin. He decides to hire Shana at his hotel based on her experience attractiveness.
Shana and Joe invite Gavin and his roommate to dinner at their apartment. This is where its first revealed that Joe and Shana are fundamentalist Christians. They decide to pray for the souls of their guests because they believe they're a gay couple. Gavin's gay roommate is only slightly irked by this sentiment, but Gavin himself is furious. He’s not angry because they think he's gay, but because they think that being gay is a sin.
Patrick Wilson shows some exceptional acting ability. The first glimpse of Joe is enough to realize that he is a villain. He hasn't done anything wrong at the beginning, but he emits a villainous aura. That is a sign of a good actor in my opinion.
It’s predictable that Shana and Gavin are going to have an affair. It’s slightly less predictable that Gavin puts together a malevolent plan to get his neighbor's wife in bed. This premeditation would make it much harder for a husband to forgive, even if that husband is a bible thumping Christian.
The gimmick here is widely advertised. A man is standing on a ledge with plans to jump at a certain time. Its up to one police officer to convince him otherwise. The subplot revolves around the life of this officer.
Hollis (Terrence Howard) is having a rough day. He's recently found out that he was born with a birth defect that causes him to be sterile. Sterility wouldn't be such a big deal except that he has been married for 11 years and has two kids. As you can imagine, this leads to some marital confrontation. When we first meet Hollis, he is in his office meditating on this nightmare endlessly. He's probably not the guy you want talking down a jumper, but he's apparently the only option.
I find this subplot to be completely pointless. The ending is to this film is uncompromising in its horror. I think the subplot is just an attempt by the filmmakers to leave the audience with a warm feeling despite what they've just witnessed.
I'll speak no more of the plot lest I ruin it for anyone.
I mentioned earlier that I like the way this movie portrays atheists. I'm sure Christians would be equally unhappy with the character of Joe. However, it's Liv Tyler's character that I really have a problem with. Shana is one of the weakest female characters I've seen in years. She's completely unable to resist any temptation and not allowed to make decisions on her own. She takes directorders from her husband and never provides any opinions of her own. The mindset here is medieval. Feminists should be furious about the character of Shana.
Despite its misogynistic tendencies, this is a good film. The cast here is very talented and they are given good dialogue to work with. The battle between religion and atheism doesn't really live up to the hype. All of the characters are uniquely human and would probably make the same choices despite their convictions. So this isn't a complete victory for either side, but it’s a small victory for the viewer.
Dusty Wallace is an amateur, but dedicated, film buff from Roanoke, Virginia. As a devout skeptic he has a unique take on films and filmmaking. When he’s not reviewing movies, Dusty writes http://dustyisgodless.blogspot.com and dustyisgodlessmovies.blogspot.com