Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Starring Samuel Le Bihan (Gregoire de Fronsac), Mark Dacascos (Mani), Emilie Dequene (Marianne de Morangias), Vincent Cassel (Jean-Francios de Morangias), Jeremie Renier (Thomas d'Apcher), Jean-Francois Stevenin (Henri Sardis), Monica Bellucci (Sylvia)
Written by Christophe Gans & Stephane Cabel
Directed by Christophe Gans
I keep hearing a young Christian Bale screaming about opulence to John Malkovich in 'Empire of the Sun'...
This is one movie that's certainly opulent. And thrilling, and tense, and lavish, and whimsical...
Defying mere singular categorization, Brotherhood of the Wolf manages to simultaneously unfold as a fairy tale, monster movie, love story, costume drama, and thriller. With its fanciful and adventurous tone, Brotherhood is similar to a personal favorite of mine Young Sherlock Holmes but with more meat on its bones not to mention in its teeth.
Full of fantastic imagery, suspense, intrigue, horror, and, of course, unique fight sequences, this movie just keeps kicking ass. It's amazing how easily scenes shift between finely choreographed combat to exquisite displays of 18th century aristocracy. I'm sure it was a daunting task to bring this story to film the right way, being such an ambitious and lavish production. Happily, Brotherhood holds itself high above many other films with similar aspirations because it is literally a style unto itself.
But don't let my eager exclamations fool you into thinking Brotherhood of the Wolf is nothing more than a glittery piece of fakery, all foolish dazzle with no real substance; it's so much more than that. It begs to be described with seemingly misleading and grandiose terms and at the same time demands the respect of a succinct review so I'll try to give you a little of both.
Based on a French legend, Brotherhood opens with a scene introducing the horror that beset the small town of Gevaudan, France in 1764. A woman is running for her life from an unseen attacker. The landscape is bright yet bleak and she's in a state of complete terror. You know she will not live. And you know she will die horribly.
Enter Gregoire de Fronsac (no it's NOT Triple H), a scholar, naturalist, and all around good guy. It's been a while since his type of hero has seen celluloid and Le Bihan fills the role perfectly. In the employment of the king, Fronsac has been sent to study the creature responsible for the brutal killings in Gevaudan, after its capture and execution, of course. General consensus believes the attacking animal to be a wolf, but no ordinary wolf. It attacks only women and children, being smart enough to run from men, and so far has been unstoppable and unkillable. News of the killings has become more and more widespread, and people have named the terror "The Beast". Arriving in Gevaudan accompanied by a strange and compelling companion, Fronsac integrates himself into the townspeople's lives and the investigation of "The Beast". His strange companion is Mani, a Mohawk Indian he met while in New France (Canada eh?).
Among the many players introduced, Thomas d'Apcher is the young Marquis who befriends Fronsac and Mani immediately. He becomes their guide, and it is his voice, aged and tired that opens the movie's narration and tells the story. Marianne is the lady who catches Fronsac's rapt attention. She's one of Gevaudan's upper class elite and reportedly "untouchable" by most in the realm, which only leads the "Chevalier" to pursue her further. Then there's Marianne's brother Jean-Francois, invalid in spirit after an attack in Africa left him with only one arm, but nevertheless a compelling character. There are so many more people throughout the film and the handling of such a large amount of charcters is expert.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is easily one of the top 5 movies to be released this year. Not only will you be treated to wonderful performances on top of an original and invigorating story, the look of the movie itself is breathtaking. Every scene is visually stunning, every single thing on camera stands out in stark and bright, brillaint colors, or veiled in heavy shadow. Couple the amazing art direction with gorgeous locales, and not to mention and equally well written score - you really just can't lose with this one.
4 out of 5
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