Critics' Corner: Out of the Furnace

Oh, itâ??s that time of the year for family, carols and cheer and if youâ??re going to see "Out of the Furnace" for a little bit of that, you would be sadly mistaken. Although it is a whole lot about family, cheer has no place in this film. Holiday cheer isnâ??t everybodyâ??s cup of tea though and what "Furnace" does bring is some of Hollywoodâ??s finest actors in a slow smoldering drama that is quite engrossing.

"Out of the Furnace" is part social commentary, part thriller and part political commentary. While the social and political commentary is ambiguous, it is a huge part of the film because it lingers over its entirety and influences the motivations that lead Russell Blaze (Christian Bale) down his inevitable course. The movie begins in 2008 as the country is on the verge of electing Barack Obama, Iraqi freedom is taking our youth away and the stench of societal deterioration hangs over the Rust Belt.

There is a slow smoldering going on in the film as we slowly step through numerous events spanning a few years and you can relate to Russell Blaze as he tries to keep things together. He goes to work everyday like his father did even though his plant is rumored to be closing. Itâ??s the only thing he knows. It is what millions of Americans can relate to and that is important because the film, while not outwardly about the deteriorating American dream, is about exactly that at its core.

"Out of the Furnace" is not meaning or trying to be uplifting or enjoyable and you should know that. What it does bring though is great performances from Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe, Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard and Forest Whitaker. These seven actors bring a grimy little film up to a level that Iâ??m not all that certain it deserved, but it is what it is.

Thereâ??s a real-ness to the film that resonates. In fact, as I returned home and stepped out into my backyard, I gathered up some firewood and listened to the neighborâ??s dog barking at me. The movie felt just like that. The creators wanted you to feel like you were in Russell Blazeâ??s shoes. It wanted you to feel what he felt as the rug keeps getting pulled out from under him time after time, and for that, it succeeds mightily.