I want to go ahead and make the obligatory joke that this is a prequel to Dark Knight Rises and is actually the origin story of Tom Hardy’s Bane. I figured it’d be good to get that out of the way early because I’ll be damned if this isn’t a contender for one of the finest films of the year. There have been some good releases thus far but most of the films I’ve seen have been enjoyable on mostly superficial levels where Warrior feels like something that should have been released closer to the Oscars ceremony because it’s the sort of thing that deserves a shitload of awards. Everyone in this film is top-notch and deserves whatever accolades they can be given. Tom Hardy plays the tortured war veteran with steely intensity that just does not let up and Joel Edgerton brings a calm warmth striped with aggression that serves his character well. Nick Nolte plays their recovering alcoholic father with a dejected pathos and subdued humility that would have helped salvage his blustering performance in Ang Lee’s Hulk film. This film is a damned fine acting showcase and everyone involved did a phenomenal job.
The sports film is not something that is easy to do well. So many have tried their hand at the genre that there’s nothing new left to bring to the table and most films attempting to do so will oversell something and end up wrecking the whole package. Warrior falls prey to a number of cliches but at the same time they are not able to detract from the film in any meaningful way because we’re not focused on the action on the mat so much as we’re invested in the drama unfolding in the character’s lives and that is where the film is able to pull ahead. Don’t get me wrong, the fight scenes in Warrior are quite well done and there is a drama to the fights that really packs a punch but this isn’t a film like Rocky where we have a protagonist and we only care if he wins or overcomes a certain obstacle, that’s not the crux of the film. The whole thing hinges on the ability of the people on screen to sell us on their characters and they do so amazingly well.
I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool MMA fan, so the fact that I was able to be engrossed in the film the way I was speaks volumes about the effectiveness of this particular film. I like that the first part of the film is a bit of a slow burn which enables the third act to move at a breakneck pace because we’ve earned that much having seen so much buildup. It’s one of the most effectively paced films of the year and while most viewers will not notice such a thing, it’s important to note that it’s not a short film with its two hour and twenty minute runtime. The fact that it feels like perhaps half that sitting in the theater shows how well crafted the narrative is.
All in all I would expect to see this one pick up some award consideration down the line if the rest of the year fails to produce anything of note. Tom Hardy is also appearing in the anticipated Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy so his chances of seeing some love are quite high. Deservedly so, the man is quite amazing.
Overall Rating: 8/10