The Best Movies of the 2000s

#26.  The 25th Hour [2002]: Director Spike Lee entered into our national conscience with 1989’s Do the Right Thing.  As a movie about race-relations in the highly polarized Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, it remains quite possibly the most significant movie on race in at least my lifetime.  What followed were a series of gems (Malcolm X, He Got Game), and a few serious missteps.  Fortunately for Lee and everyone else that has come to enjoy his movies, he followed 2000’s woeful Bamboozled with The 25th Hour.  Among other things, Lee made his bones exploring largely racial issues; in a rare occurrence Lee steers away from the subject.

The movie centers around Montgomery “Monty” Brogan, played by Edward Norton.  Monty has recently been sentenced to prison for 7 years and is preparing to head upstate to serve his time.  The title refers to the focus of the movie, which is Monty’s last day as a free man.  With the aid of flashbacks, the movie follows Monty’s past as well as his last day as a free man, as he spends it with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), and his two best friends Jacob and Frank; played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper, respectively.

Shot in the wake of the attack on the Twin Towers, The 25th Hour is as much a postcard to New York City as anything else.  But what really makes the movie work is Norton and his vulnerabilities as he slowly comes to terms with the realization that his life will soon drastically change.  In addition to Norton, there are strong performances here by Hoffman, and Ana Paquin who plays a high school student of Hoffman’s.  Playing that role in a way that only Paquin can, she creates real tension with Hoffman.

If, like me you are a huge fan of Lee’s work, than you will be pleasantly surprised to see that his directing chops are still in tact.  If not, you will no doubt be impressed with the movie but disappointed that you haven’t seen more from one of America’s best, if not important directors.

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