Has everyone seen Warrior, the movie starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte? If not, you should. Because this movie is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, if not the absolute best.
It’s a lot like The Fighter in that it’s a movie about two brothers who play the same sports and goes through a little bit of sibling rivalry and comparisons are inevitable. I haven’t watched The Fighter so I don’t know which one is better but I can safely say that Warrior will probably come out on top in my list of favorites.
The story is full of sports movie cliché of two underdog fighters who beat the odds and reach the top. There’s family drama along the way that’s meant to give the story emotional depth and substance. There are dramatic moments that some may accuse of being cheesy and over-the-top. It’s probably not going to win any Best Original Screenplay at any award shows.
But the execution of this cliché, linear and familiar story? FLAWLESS.
Director Gavin O’Connor presents the story at a leisurely pace since the beginning, taking the time to build up the situations, the characters and the action. Each one of his characters – Brendan, Tommy, Paddy – has a dark past but all of them live in the present. What happens in their past is never fully explained and that’s the beauty of it – O’Connor lets us, the audience, figure it out on our own. This in no way means the movie is cerebral, though. It’s more like a gesture of faith from the filmmaker’s part, trusting his audience to think for themselves instead of spelling it out for them. His storytelling is masterful and stylish… he tells a feel-good story with an arthouse/indie-esque sensibility.
Before watching this movie, I read that O’Connor wanted to make a movie where the audience ends up rooting for both of the Conlon brothers even though they’re rivals. He managed to do exactly this. Brendan needs to win because he wants to put a roof above his family’s heads. Tommy needs to win because he has a high sense of honor and duty. Brendan is the poor teacher whom life treats unfairly. Tommy is the tortured superhero-like war vet who breaks the law. They’re both flawed, very much so (there’s a scene where they both treat their father Paddy with so much disrespect that I wanted to slap them both), and yet they’re both equally sympathetic. If you watch this movie and see how Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play their characters, you will understand. Both actors are extremely good, have a strong chemistry with each other despite appearing in only a handful of scenes together, and it will be quite impossible to say which I like more. I don’t have one that I like more; they really are equal in my eyes and yes, I end up rooting for them.
Which is why I never stopped crying for the third of the movie. I literally had tears running down my cheeks for at least half an hour toward the end of the movie. It was that emotional.
By the way, Nick Nolte? If he doesn’t get an award nod at least once for playing Paddy, I will be very disappointed. He’s amazing!
And although I previously never had an interested in mixed martial arts, I have to admit, it’s a very sexy sport. I think I would’ve still said this if Hardy and Edgerton never played characters who were involved in MMA. How do you say this? The combination of various disciplines of martial arts make for one thrilling fight choreography and O’Connor definitely knows how to shoot the fights to make them look interesting. There’s also something very sensual about two male athletes with god-like physique battling each other in a tangle of limbs and sweat. It’s not at all revolting as I’d previously thought it would be.
But to tell you what makes Warrior works as a movie as a whole is going to take me dozens of paragraphs and I doubt I can be coherent at explaining what it is. It’s not just one thing, but a lot of things. Each key scene is a big picture with an underlying minor moment that wrings out a reaction out of you – laughter, tears, gasps and whatever else it is it demands from you. An excellent performance by the actors is accompanied by either an intense fighting act and/or solemn, triumphant score that raises the goosebumps on your skin. A particularly bloody and brutal fight has humorous commentaries and may reveal a facet of the characters’ personalities. The movie is a combination of a lot of good things that is neatly presented as a wonderful package. Perfection.