What would you do if you father, the most loving and reliable man in your life, suddenly came home one evening and told you that he'd be visited by God? What would you do if he told you that God had informed him that his purpose here on Earth was to seek out and destroy the demons that walk upon us? And what would you do if these demons just happened to look exactly like the rest of us?
Those are the questions that form the basis of Bill Paxton's directorial debut and the answers go towards providing one of the most enjoyable thrillers so far this year. Matthew McConaughey stars as Fenton Meiks, who approaches the FBI and declares that his younger brother is responsible for a series of unsolved murders. As his story unfolds, we are taken back to 1979 wherein we are introduced to both brothers as children, along with their loving, single father (Paxton). The timeline shifts between the past and the present as McConaughey's story begins to tie his father's apparent madness to the alleged premeditated murders committed by his brother, some twenty years later.
To give anymore away would be doing the film a great disservice, as many of the questions that the film asks rely on the audience being caught unprepared. But Paxton has succeeded in constructing a film that manages to embrace such diverse themes as mental health, family ties and Christian fundamentalism into a film that doesn't ever fall into the trap of sermonizing.
The performances given here are very good. McConaughey in particular, a mile away here from his buffed-up, bug-eyed turn in 'Reign of Fire' elicits a sense of sympathetic unease in the audience as his story takes shape. Powers Booth (where have you been?) is suitably world-weary as the FBI agent and Paxton himself turns in a nicely understated performance as the father who truly believes he is an agent of God. But the best performances given here are by the juvenile leads, Matthew Leary and Jeremy Sumpter, as the suspicious older brother and his younger sibling who happily accepts his father's explanation of the family's destniy.
Whilst the ending relies a little too heavily on some spurious twists and turns, this is a rock solid thriller that will hold up to some close scrutiny long after the end credits have rolled.