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Harsh Times

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Jan
Harsh Times

from Film Forum, 11/16/06

Christian Bale, like his Prestige co-star Hugh Jackman, is having quite a year.

He co-starred in Terrence Malick's The New World, played Jackman's rival in Christopher Nolan's thriller about magicians, and now is winning raves for his performance as a mentally unstable war veteran in Harsh Times.

Unfortunately the rest of the film, written by the screenwriter of Training Day, is not as good as Bale's performance.

Bob Hoose (Plugged In) says that if you eliminated all instances of "the f-word," you would save "about 20 minutes of screen time." Plus, "Harsh Times speaks of consequences for our actions and depicts a character agonizing about killing a friend. But in the end, the movie says little more than: 'It's sad this had to happen, but if the situation is hopeless enough, this is the right thing to do.'"

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) writes, "Bale's explosive and scarily credible performance notwithstanding, the action is bleak and brutish, compounded by the script's nihilism and morally problematic ending, the latter of which, in addition to presenting a misguided idea of compassion, undermines whatever Ayer may be trying to say about the culture of violence, including its desensitizing effect, especially on those in combat."

Some mainstream critics recommend the film for Bale's riveting performance, while others are dispirited by its grim narrative.

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