Seraphim Falls (2006) Review

It’s impressive what a lot of talent can do with an equally talented cast. In Seraphim Falls, we find a solid screenplay, high-caliber acting and cinematography and direction that know how to handle the wide expanses of scenery and the subtle nuances of the actors. It’s not a perfect movie. The pacing sometimes drags and the plot does meander here and there, but overall Seraphim Falls is a well-crafted film with a rich story.

The American Civil War is recently ended and Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) is a wanted man. Carver (Liam Neeson) is the man that wants him. Joined by a crew of hired gunmen, Carver dogs Gideon’s every step, chasing him through frigid, snow-swept mountains and through desolate deserts where nothing can survive. The reason Gideon must run and Carver must chase is an intimate bond between them and revolves around the once-angelic Seraphim Falls.

“Deliberate” is probably the best way to describe to this film. Every scene takes its time to envelope the audience to bring the world of Seraphim Falls to life. It may be off-putting to start, especially when Gideon doesn’t speak for the first ten minutes of the film, but once the audience adjusts to this style of filmmaking, the deliberate convention definitely works to the story’s advantage. Gideon shows us he is a determined survivalist as we watch him build fires, leave tracks that lead to nowhere and use the intestines of fresh corpses to thaw his hands. Witnessing Gideon dig out a bullet and then cauterize the wound in real time is particularly convincing.

The acting in Seraphim Falls isn’t necessarily stellar, but it’s certainly good and exactly what you expect from heavyweights like Brosnan and Neeson. Where the acting shines is in the overall level of acting for the entire cast, which is peppered with veterans, like Anjelica Huston, Xander Berkeley and Kevin J. O’Connor, who – for the most part – have small roles. Though their screen-time is brief, their scenes are poignant and memorable.

On the other hand, having the principal characters run into all of these peripheral characters is a bit of an oddity since they’re not really plot-related. Only towards the end do these side-characters take on a metaphorical existence, like when they encounter a Native-American named Charon (Wes Studi) who speaks mystical mumbo-jumbo about life and charges people who drink from his watering hole. Early on, however, viewers may be confused when they get invested in characters that don’t make an appearance later in the film.

The highlight of Seraphim Falls is that it feels authentic throughout, including both the period portrayed and the journey of the story. Kudos to director and writer David Von Ancken and writer Abby Everett Jaques. They’ve handled an ordinary revenge tale with care and restraint and nurtured it into something imperfectly remarkable.