Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 12, 2013

'Out of the Furnace' doesn't quite achieve Oscar worthiness

Ryan Maddux & Andy Stuckey
The Movie Boys

---- — This week’s feature is the revenge-thriller/drama “Out of the Furnace” (R). Christian Bale and Casey Affleck star as pair of brothers on different career paths in rural Pennsylvania. Bale works in a steel mill, while Affleck, an Iraqi War veteran, finds himself mixed up in a dangerous world of underground fighting. When Affleck goes missing, Bale takes it upon himself to seek justice. Wood Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Forest Whitaker and Willem Dafoe costar. Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) directs.

Ryan: Although I have reservations with the third act, “Out of the Furnace” is quite an impressive film. Highlighted by another great performance by Christian Bale, “Out of the Furnace” is an engaging film. It certainly tackles many issues, both socially relevant (post-traumatic stress of soldiers and the loss of blue-collar jobs in rural America) and existential (burden of guilt and the pursuit of justice). Honestly, I’m not quite convinced this movie has anything of note to say about these issues, but it does present them in a way that allows the audience to marinate on them afterward.

Andy: “Out of the Furnace” is well made, but difficult movie to watch. There have been comparisons made to “The Deerhunter” (1977), and as far as tone and theme, that seems apt. The dissection of how people manage when they’re running out of options, paired with the issues surrounding veterans make for a film that demands thought about social issues.

Ryan: Bale’s great in this movie. His character, Russell Baze, is the movie’s moral compass. Although a horrible vehicular accident causes his character to go to prison for a time in the film, he’s still able to present Russell in a very empathetic and relatable manner throughout much of the movie. In a lot of ways, much of the film revolves around Russell dealing with hardships (of societal failures of various social institutions) and of misfortunes that fall upon his family and loved ones. There are several scenes in the film of real emotional weight and Bale anchors the movie down in a very grounded manner.

Andy: The best aspects of “Out of the Furnace” center on the superb acting. Casey Affleck continues to make good choices in the roles he chooses, and seems to get a little better at his craft with each performance. It’s Christian Bale, however, who carries the movie, and that should not come as a surprise. Clearly among the best actors working today, Bale again creates a character that’s heartbreakingly real and sympathetic.

Ryan: Like I mentioned earlier, the climax of the film is a bit clunky. Wood Harrelson’s sadistic performance made for a worthy antagonist, but the resolution between him and Bale is not as efficiently executed as it could have been. The movie’s last scene is emotionally relevant, so it’s not like the entire third act is a mess, because it isn’t. All- in- all “Out of the Furnace” is a fine drama. I wouldn’t say it’s Oscar worthy, but it’s a notch below.

“Out of the Furnace” is a good movie that features some very strong performances, worthy of a B+.