Russell Baze (Christian Bale – The Dark Knight) loves his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana – Star Trek) and lives a good, hard-working life. His brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) struggles to readjust to civilian life after returning home from Afghanistan and soon gets involved with a shady local book-keeper (Willem Dafoe – Spiderman 2). An underground bare-knuckle fighting ring run by the unhinged Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson – The Hunger Games) draws Rodney in and leads Russell into a deadly confrontation to save his brother.
Out of the Furnace is an immersive but delicate study into the broken lives and circumstance of everyday middle-America. Scott Cooper and Brad Ingelsby’s haunting tale lingers long in the mind and features a wondrous ensemble cast that all collectively help to create a film of undoubted quality.
The peerless Christian Bale hands in a beautifully tragic portrayal as Russell Baze, a hard-working, good man whose life turns upside down after one fateful mistake. Bale has shown time and again just how good an actor he is. His astounding ability to interpret roles (The Dark Knight, The Fighter and American Hustle to name but three) cements his place as this generation’s finest actor. His leading turn here is even better than his performance in American Hustle, for which he was Oscar nominated.
The film features very strong support in the form of Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard. Saldana, in particular, really impresses here as she shares one emotionally-devastating scene with Bale that should be studied by acting students the world over. Heartbreaking but masked in a sublime subtlety, their reunion on a bridge after Russell returns home is the best dramatic scene of the year and simply outstanding.
Casey Affleck shines as a young man looking for his place in the world, after numerous tours of Afghanistan have left an unbearable scar on his psyche. Woody Harrelson plays a psycho like no other and is terrifying as a redneck crime lord whilst Willem Dafoe hands in a remarkable cameo too, delivering his finest work in years.
Out of the Furnace is superlative filmmaking with a fragility that’s rarely seen in mainstream cinema. With outstanding performances and a delicate, heart-wrenching story that leaves an indelible mark, Out of the Furnace is one of the finest dramas you’ll see in 2014.