I don't think that I know anybody who's seen 25th Hour and didn't like it. The problem is, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of people who have seen it. Hopefully this review will rectify that for at least a couple of people.
The film is about Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) who gets to have one last day of freedom and partying with his friends before he goes to prison for dealing drugs. Much of the movie deals with him trying to figure out who ratted him out, but it's really about how he deals with the fact that his life is going to change forever. Also, there are a lot of great supporting roles played by Rosario Dawson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Barry Pepper. We also see how his friends and girlfriend are trying to make sense of how such a smart guy like him could have thrown his life away like that.
It's a powerful film, and the climax packs a pretty powerful emotional punch. It's definitely not the kind of film for people who like everything neat and happy in their films. (Although it does have a happy "what if" scenario at the very end where if you really want, you could pretend that's the way the story actually ends.)
While I like pretty much everything about this movie, the one subplot that really resonates with me is the one with his friend Jacob (Hoffman) who's a high school English teacher. I have to be careful about what I write here, because I don't want to make it sound like I've had an experience that's similar to Jacob's, but I can understand how he could get himself into the trouble that he got himself into.
Basically, Jacob is infatuated with one of his students, Mary (Anna Paquin). While he's out with Monty for his last hurrah, they run into Mary and she hangs out with them. Not enough can be said about Paquin's performance. She was about 21 at the time, but she was definitely channeling her inner 17-year-old. They look like women. Sometimes they even act like women. They're starting to get a handle on their sexuality and how they can use it on men. However, push-comes-to-shove, they're still children.
Minor spoiler alert here - Jacob winds up kissing Mary. It's one of the most perfect scenes in the movie. It's completely believable that he would do such a thing in the first place. After all, he's a single and probably lonely guy. She's definitely sending out a lot of signals. However, it's clear that she's not entirely aware of exactly what signals she's sending out. The look on her face after he does it says so much, even though there's no dialogue. Right after that, there's a very Spike Lee (who directed) moment where you just see Jacob's face as the background slowly moves behind him. With this movie, you definitely have a lot of talented actors bringing their A-game.
Like I said, I've never done anything like Jacob does in this movie. However, I work with teenage girls. I've been single. I know how they can be, and I know how dumb we men can be. I guess you could call it a good cautionary tale. And to think, I've had that much to say simply about the subplot. Imagine how good the rest of the movie is.