Film Review: Edge of Darkness

Hasan Zillur Rahim

Posted Feb 1, 2010      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Film Review: Edge of Darkness

By Hasan Zillur Rahim

An intelligent thriller is as rare as a bluebird in winter. One that also tugs at the heartstrings is rarer still.

This is how I saw “Edge of Darkness,” a movie in which Mel Gibson returns after a seven-year hiatus from the screen.

As a detective with the Boston Police, Tom Craven’s world is shattered when gunmen cut down his 24-year-old daughter, Emma, right at his front door.

Gibson can be subtle when he needs to but he is at his best when taking matter into his own hands (Braveheart, The Patriot). As Craven searches for his daughter’s killers, he runs into a mysterious R&D company that is under contract by the U.S. government to produce nuclear weapons. That’s where his daughter used to work as an intern. He meets with the company’s arrogant CEO to whom Emma was a minor cog in the giant wheel.

After that, things get pretty dicey.

Craven breaks the rules because the rules don’t get him anywhere. (Everything is “classified.”) Dead bodies show up all over the place but underneath the violence and the corporate and political cover-ups are serious contemporary issues that grip the viewer even more. The chief of the nuclear facility states matter-of-factly that the company will always be off the hook if a bomb were to ever explode, even accidentally, in America because he can prove that it is the act of a jihadist in possession of a dirty bomb. The Muslim implication is obvious: You can convince the public of anything that it wants to believe.

This is underscored by another corrupt officer of the law when he tries to convince Craven to give up his search for his daughter’s killers because “nothing is what it is. Everything is what it is made up to be.” In other words, spin is king. Anyone watching FOX News will know exactly what he means.

Well, Craven will have nothing to do with such thinking. He is a man who believes that it is wrong to accept stuff from the bad guys and that it is cruel to hurt those who cannot protect themselves. With unrestrained fury, he goes after those for whom the vulnerable are no more than guinea-pigs for their diabolical experiments. On the way, and luckily for him, there is a metamorphosis. A killer suddenly becomes human when he wonders whether it is more painful to lose a child than never to have had one. He share’s Craven’s anguish at the loss of his daughter and … Well, you will have to see the movie to see how all the loose ends come satisfyingly together.

One thought that struck me was that while Hollywood has been guilty of stereotyping Muslims, there have also been movies where the studios have made serious attempts to break those stereotypes. “Edge of Darkness” does this subtly, with only a few hints that one can easily miss unless paying attention. Two other movies where the dangers of stereotyping are made more forcefully are “Flight Plan” (2005) starring Jodie Foster (the bearded guys, naturally Muslims, are assumed guilty by default), and “Syriana” (2005) starring George Clooney (2005) (Big oil and CIA subverts democracy in the Middle East to keep the oil flowing.)

We are quick to criticize Hollywood when Muslims are portrayed in a negative light but are silent when it tries to show them in their humanity. This must change. On behalf of American-Muslims, thank you, Hollywood!

“Edge of Darkness” didn’t quite bring me to the edge of my seat – I found the dialog dragging at times – but it came close. With most movies dominated these days by hi-tech gimmicks and maudlin plots, this is high praise indeed.