Good news, Nicholas Cage is back on form after so, so long. I am going to say immediately that his performance in this drama is his best since Leaving Las Vegas. Before I describe in detail why he’s managed to do this I should probably lay out the scene for what this film is about. Based on the novel of the same name by the late Larry Brown it tells the story of an ex-convict Joe Ransom who is given a new lease in life when he finds out that he has an illegitimate son and must become a reluctant father. The son in question is a troubled fifteen year old Gary.
So without any delay, Mr Cage. I was completely stunned at this performance, in the last couple of years Cage has been in no shortage of bad films, as well as outlandish ones that polarize everyone. But this powerful and emotional performance not only demonstrates his own ability, but also helps to secure the entire film and makes it incredibly realised. Not to say that Joe(it might be difficult to know whether I mean the character or the film, in this case the film) relies heavily on his performance though. In fact it is the opposite, the rich atmosphere that Joe (film) displays draws you in instantly.
But simultaneously, the grotesque nature of the environment in which the film is set helps you stay with the plot through the entire film. The murky side of backwoods areas is clearly shown and used to great effect. Joe (character) works to get rid of old trees using poison to make room for saplings. That’s a brilliant metaphor, for what exactly, try the substances that have effected and claimed so many older lives in the South and are now inevitably spreading to claim the younger citizens that initially take the place of the elders.
This does make a very good understanding of the film. But that’s not surprising as there is a great mix of director and source material. David Gordon Green has deep roots within the Southern communities in which Larry Brown’s novel is set, so he should know exactly how to present the images that Brown painstakingly crafts within his book. They both understand the people that live there and understand why this story has to be told. With such a relatable story of himself, how could Green ever fail to make it a great piece of filmmaking.
Of course when he finds out that he’s a father, Joe (character) is very reluctant, and also sees a younger version of himself in this damaged teenager. It would be easy to turn his back on him but instead the title character takes it upon himself to try and improve his son’s life. It’s this kind of moral decision that makes him a rather indisputable hero in his own story. He doesn’t go looking for trouble, trouble finds him.
So this film works like a well-oiled machine. More than that though, it has the heart and soul combined with a great full, yet repulsive cinematography to convey the environment that was established in the writings of Brown. If you’re nt a fan of him then Joe (film) will make you wish you are.Result: 7/10