Some filmgoers will argue that to much attention is given to the soundtrack, with some commending the idea that music in a film is not required but I would put forward an argument that it depends on the movie. For example would Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) be such a great film without a soundtrack, would Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) be quite so haunting and obviously I could go on. Well get to the point I can hear you saying - ok. Scott Coopers follow up film to the award winning Crazy Heart (2009) has a soundtrack that really compliments what we see on the screen. Even without the Pearl Jam track Release that plays over both the opening and closing credits, it's Dickon Hinchliffe’s score that really underpins the gritty and grim atmosphere in an already atmospheric film, Hinchliffe was a founder of Tindersticks who were credited with six soundtracks for French director Claire Denis including 35 rhums (2008) and White Material (2010). Out of the Furnace (2013) runs the gauntlet of emotions in a film that harps back to the great tradition of tough American movies. A cross fertilisation between the inbred inhabitants of Winters Bone (2009), the belligerent spirit of The Fighter (2010) and the bleak steelworks setting's and blue collar approach of Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978) is where I see this movie drawing its influences.
Co-written by Cooper, the movie is set in Braddock, Pittsburgh in 2008. Basically it's the story of two brothers Russell and Rodney Baze. Russell is a hardworking man who cares deeply for his family, girlfriend Lena Taylor, his dying father and of course his troubled brother. Russell works at the local steel mill while his brother is in the army, deployed to Iran four times which has done nothing to improve his state of mind. While on leave he has run up gambling debts with the local crime boss John Petty and has to resort to bare- knuckle fighting in an attempt to pay this off. This in turn leads to his involvement with Harlan DeGroat an evil drug addicted psychopath who gets off on extreme violence. Meanwhile the hard working Russell is sent to prison for a drink driving accident. When he is released the close confines of his world have crumpled, his father is dead, Rodney is throwing fights and Lena has left him for the local cop and is now pregnant.
Be warned this is a violent film right from the opening scene in the drive in movie, up to its gripping climax. Cooper even describes it as ‘an examination of the nature of violence in a society where men solve their own problems'. Certainly an interesting concept and it may sound a familiar story with its Cane and Abel complex reworked, i.e. the good and bad side of the same coin, but don't be fooled this is a brilliantly made movie with a story that never allows the viewer to look away from the screen. DOP Masanobu Takayanagi cinematography captures a vanishing way of life with its deep sense of Americana and the economic decline of industrial America and it's effect on the population of once thriving community but still managing to find beauty in what has essentially become a depressing place.
The director has been quoted as saying that it was important for the film's credibility that it was shoot on location in the town of Braddock and he was proved right. He is obviously a man who has a clear vision of what he wanted from the films strong cast. Even the smaller parts are taken by some very experienced actors including Sam Shepard as Uncle 'Red' Baze and Forest Whitaker as Police Officer Wesley Barnes both of whom make a great job of there minimal time on screen. Willem Defoe plays John Petty a manipulating villain with a sympathetic streak with Woody Harrelson in award winning form as Harlan DeGroat a vicious man who admits to having a problem with everyone! The only female lead is Zoe Saldana as the Russell/Wesley love interest, Saldana will be seen later this year as Nina Simone in the biopic of her life. That just leaves our two main leads, Casey Affleck plays the war veteran Rodney Baze with just the right amount of calculated tension and Christian Bale, riveting as Russell, in what is probably one of his best performances - certainly worthy of consideration for an Award at next years Academy Awards. It’s not often that I watch a movie twice within a few days!