Heroes of the Zeroes: 25th Hour
The Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.
Spike Lee’s 2002 film was the first post-9/11 piece of art to tackle that very trickiest of subject matter better than any song, poem or episode of TV ever could. Profound and haunting, it didn’t rouse rabble, preach or well up sadness.
Instead, it channeled into an abstract notion of unease that would haunt New York and, later, the country for years — and echoes within us almost nine years after the events and in a hopeful shift toward change.
Edward Norton stars as a drug dealer spending his final days of freedom with his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) and his best friends (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman) before going off to prison.
Though filled with long diatribes and dialogue exchanges, the talky quality of David Benioff’s script never grates, and each actor delivers fine form. And it remains, with “Summer of Sam,” Lee’s most stunningly shot film — alternating between what felt like a lucid dream and a pre-imprisonment eulogy.
Its centerpiece is an extended nightclub scene with high-wattage lights and “White Lines” blaring — a whirligig moment reminiscent of Martin Scorsese.
Slight thriller hints occasionally rise to the surface, but Lee thankfully directs them toward the rear. Instead, urgency burns in this group’s collectively short fuse, and poignancy radiates from an interweaving of human choice and responsibility.
“25th Hour” is Lee’s condemnation of, and valentine to, all that America has done before. With a narrative-haymaker ending open to interpretation, he offered a strangely inspiring reminder that there is beauty in even the bleakest decisions.