Adapted from the BBC miniseries of the same name, and directed by director of the original series; Martin Campbell (Casino Royale); Edge of Darkness puts Mel Gibson (Braveheart) in his first leading role since 2001’s Signs, in order to tell the story of Tom Craven (Gibson); a bereaved Boston detective, who’s left grieving after his daughter is brutally murdered before his eyes, and a father who begins to investigate the crime, which begins to unravel a deep and dark government conspiracy.
The film opens, as many redemption based movies do, by showing the close relationship between Tom and his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic, Drag Me to Hell), as she comes home to visit him, and although she instantly shows signs of being desperately ill, she is murdered by a masked man before she can tell her father why.
An investigation begins instantly, with the prime focus resting on the distraught father’s past (because an ex-con attempting, and failing, to murder his arresting officer, is the most obvious and plausible scenario for the shooting), but after Tom finds some strange things (including a gun he doesn’t recognize, some unknown phone contacts, and a geiger counter) amongst Emma’s belongings, and some unexplainable behaviour becomes known, he starts to believe that she may have been the intended target all along, and focusses his own investigation on her friends, and workplace; a research company called Northmoor.
From that point on, Tom’s sole focus is finding out exactly what Emma was involved in, and why anyone would want to kill her; questions that do not have easy to find answers, as everyone of her friends appears to be irrationally paranoid and fearing for their lives, only giving Tom vague hints that Northmoor was behind the whole thing, and has had a whole number of people killed to cover up the companies illegal operations (which are apparently aided by government support).
Along the way Tom confronts the head of Northmoor (who gives him little information about his daughter’s previous job role), and a state senator (who’s just as unhelpful), and a fixer (played by Ray Winstone, Sexy Beast) who was originally hired by Northmoor in order to resolve the situation and throw Tom off the scent, but takes an uncharacteristic liking to Tom and actually aids him along the path to proving Northmoor’s guilt, uncovering the conspiracy behind the corporations actions, and getting his revenge.
And while Edge of Darkness may be a revenge film at heart, it’s very different from the run and gun stylings of films like Taken, or the devious, plotting, run and gun stylings of movies like The Punisher, as it’s much slower paced, and more detective focussed; with much less mindless action and a more deeply involved story; which can put some viewers off, as it’s not simply a new version of Taken, with Mel Gibson taking the place of Liam Neeson (as some of the pre-release hype, and the DVD cover, would suggest), but is much more slowly paced, investigative, and attention demanding.
The pacing however isn’t tediously slow; as Tom’s daughter, Emma, dies within minutes of the film’s opening, moments later he’s conducting his own investigation, and everything that happens along the way (with every witness) is suitably timed and well played out; the only problem is that it’s blatantly obvious that the people over at Northmoor are responsible for Emma’s death, from very near the beginning of the film, and so viewers then spend two hours basically waiting for Tom to find the proof that he needs to bring the men responsible to justice (meaning that it’s easily possible to drop-off for a spell, wake up, and still be able to follow what’s happening).
However, Tom’s investigation is compelling enough that most viewers won’t drop off, and will be thoroughly drawn in to the tale by not only the storytelling, but the top-quality acting from the principal cast; Mel Gibson is as good as ever (playing the bereaved and moody cop exceptionally well, and thankfully showing more of the inner turmoil, and quietly determined sadness, than the more emotional stuff; which he is slightly weaker at conveying), Ray Winstone manages to be just as mysterious, engaging, and intimidating as his character demands, but never overplays his role, and everyone else from the top-dog at Northmoor (Danny Huston, Robin Hood), Tom cop friend Bill (Jay O. Sanders, Along Came A Spider), and the slimy Senator (Damian Young, Californication), are all totally convincing in their respective roles.
So while Edge of Darkness may not be quite as quick as a good deal of revenge films, or have the sheer brutality of others, it’s still a very compelling story; it’s like seeing Mad Max get old, grow more sensible, less reckless, and get mixed up with another Conspiracy Theory; that has a fairly obvious outcome, but is still interesting to watch unfold. Mel clearly hasn’t lost his touch, and fit’s into his first leading role for nine years with ease, showcasing once again the talent that helped him to become one of Hollywood’s main leading men in the 80’s and 90’s, and truly enhancing the movie, which is a thrilling (yet largely predictable) watch.
While the 1080p transfer awarded to Edge of Darkness, may not be the most eye-popping transfer that film fans have ever seen, there’s no denying that it’s a solidly good, faithful, representation of the source material; the chosen colour palette is almost entirely dark and drab (mirroring the somber mood of the movie’s hero), but the limited amount of colour that is present, is fantastically rendered; with a strong level of contrast that remains stable throughout the feature.
Black levels are also suitably deep and inky, with impressive delineation making fine shadow detail easily visible, just as the impressively sharp fine detail is in the rest of the picture. Skin tones are always lifelike and natural in appearance, and while aliasing and artifacting (as well as most other print errors) are completely absent, there is the occasional presence of source noise visible in the background.
Overall the picture quality for Edge of Darkness is of a very high quality; having only a few very minor problems; but as it contains a very bland colour palette (used to accentuate the film’s fairly somber subject, and the rainy Boston setting), it lacks the wow factor of bold, colourful, movies like Avatar, yet should nevertheless please the film’s fans as it realistically showcases the movie, has strong black levels and impressive detail, and is a very accurate representation of the source material.
The soundtrack (a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track) is just as impressive; having realistic and convincing levels of ambient noise presence during practically every shot of the movie, an authoritative use of bass (which is used sparingly, and generally only pops up during the action scenes), and some appropriate sound effects which are well placed, perfectly prioritized (as is every sound in the mix), and combine with some smooth pans to create and fully fluid, and completely engrossing, soundtrack, that should never disappoint.
Dialogue is the central aspect of the soundtrack, and forms the majority of the mix; as despite what the trailers would suggest, Edge of Darkness isn’t simply a string of gunfights and explosions (there are actually relatively few action scenes overall), but consists of mainly dialogue based investigations; which are well anchored in the front of the soundfield, and always well rendered and intelligible (despite the fact that Mel and Ray Winstone both talk excessively low).
The low speaking may put some viewers off, as it does take some concentration to hear what is being said in parts; but that’s more due to the way the actors speak than problems with the soundtrack; yet prioritization, overall leveling, the smooth pans and solid dynamics, as well as the impressive amount of ambience, all combine to create a fully enveloping, realistic, and engrossing, listening experience.
The Blu-ray edition of Edge of Darkness comes bundled with a number of special features that at first glance seem to be never ending; as they include ten separate featurettes, and a collection of deleted scenes (which are largely redundant, and were rightfully cut from the finished product); but combine to total only around 45 minutes of bonus material.
The featurettes consist of nine of shorts; that discuss everything from Mel Gibson’s return to a leading role (which is heavily praised by the cast and crew), creating the film’s musical score, and it’s shocking opening scenes, to using Boston as a setting for the picture, adapting it from the original miniseries, and Martin Campbell’s unusual directing style; and a final tenth feature entitled ‘First Look Footage’; which is extremely promotional in nature, very praise happy, and like the deleted scenes, fairly redundant, as it basically rehashes all of the information that was contained in the shorter featurettes, and consists mainly of clips from the movie, and interviews giving a rough overview of the film’s plot.
So while it may at first appear that you are getting a wealth of extras, the amount of runtime is rather slim, with good chunks of the features not even really warranting a watch (although the shorter featurettes do provide quite a bit of interesting information about the production); a director’s commentary, or perhaps picture-in-picture option (which is actually advertised; but wouldn’t play on three separate Blu-ray players), would have completed the set nicely, but as it stands, the ‘special’ features for Edge of Darkness are rather poor.
The Bottom Line:
While Edge of Darkness might not be the, Mad Max meets Taken, type of film that everybody who saw the pre-release trailers was expecting, it still proves to be a rather compelling watch; as despite the bad guy at the end of the investigation being clear from the beginning, it’s interesting to watch Tom Craven on his quest for vengeance, and lengths at which he will go to get it, as well as the lengths that the heartless corporation head of Northmoor will go to try and stop him and protect the companies livelihood.
The picture and audio quality are both of an excellent standard, and whilst the number and quality of special features might not be up to scratch, that doesn’t distract from the fact that this is a decent Blu-ray release; that does a good job of showcasing it’s film well; and contains a pretty good, although somewhat slowly paced, movie.
The pacing may put some people off; as you basically spend the whole film waiting for Tom to exact his revenge; but it’s a decent and tense story nonetheless, and one which is held together by some truly fine performances (Gibson is clearly the standout veteran actor, followed by Ray Winstone, yet the supporting cast also fare well), and exhilarating action (in the few scenes where there is any), that a make for a revenge film with a bit of a difference, that is certainly worth a watch.