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       The Pledge

Starring Jack Nicholson, Aaron Eckhart, Robin Wright Penn, Benicio Del Toro. Directed By Sean Penn.

‘The Pledge’ marks another step forward in the directorial career of perennial Hollwood bad boy, Sean Penn. Following on from his previous efforts, ‘The Indian Runner’ and ‘The Crossing Guard’, this movie shares the same slow burning pace as it works it way to it’s haunting climax.
Jack Nicholson plays Jerry Black, a veteran Nevada detective who, on the night of his retirement, gets involved in the investigation following the murder of a small girl. So far, so formulaic: However, in this case, the suspect is swiftly apprehended, confesses and subsequently kills himself in police custody - Case closed; a nice neat end to Jerry’s career. Or at least it would be if he hadn’t made a promise, the ‘pledge’ of the movie’s title, to the victim’s mother to find the killer - and Jerry just sees too many questions hanging over the suspects confession.

Following some private enquiries, Jerry discovers that this killing is the third in a a string of murders that have occurred in the same locality over the previous years - all following a similar pattern. With his pledge heavy on his heart, Jerry takes up residence in the Nevada mountains, determined to find the real killer and keep his promise.

This is a story that starts as a standard ‘one last case’ cop story and slowly develops into a study of one man’s obsession with justice and his belief that he is right. Right from the start we see the Jerry Black is very much a man out of time, one of the old school of policemen who believe in justice and not just the execution of the law. We see him confused and disorientated at his leaving party, we sense his colleagues exasperation with him as he refuses to let the case rest, even after his retirement.
The film is a joy to watch. Nicholson, so often guilty of phoning in his performances, gives a blistering display of Jerry’s decent into inevitable madness as he finds himself questioning his judgement and his sanity as he tries to find the killer.

 It’s a testament to Penn’s direction and Nicholson’s performance that, as the films draws to a close, the identity of the killer is very much a secondary consideration.
Although ably supported by Wright Penn and Eckhart, this is very much Nicholson’s film. Married with some beautiful shots of the British Columbian mountains (doubling up for the Nevada setting), the sense of isolation and (increasing) desperation is remarkable. Don’t come to this film expecting an all out thriller....leave your expectations at the door and you will be thrilled in a much more rewarding way. Stunning.

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Theatrical Trailer
Cast/Filmaker Career Highlights

Film - 9/10
Disc - 7/10

Sean G