Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
July 4, 2011

“Stone” – Redemption Retold

I was wrong and it’s not the first time. It’s good to heed that ol saying – “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” or in this case don’t judge a prison movie by the stereotype it usually comes with – you know which one I mean. I don’t see a lot of them – prison movies that is. I usually try to avoid them for reasons I think I mentioned in another review so enough of the preamble – this movie “STONE” defies the Prison Movie stereotype – pure and simple. In fact I would say it’s not really about prisons at all but in fact maybe it’s more about being a prisoner in that larger than life, archetypal way. The prison just happens to be the backdrop – a stage provided for the “drama of life” to unravel and unwind. In other words you don’t have to have the literal steel bars or wear the classic orange issue to be a prisoner and the inverse is also true – you can be free regardless of the cell and the constraints you find yourself in. But it’s not an easy path. “Stone” makes sure we know that.

Woven throughout is well-constructed dialogue and finely drawn characters. And it is because of the care put into this movie that “Stone” is able to cross the floor from one genre to another – from prison movie to morality play. Very quickly this happens, it doesn’t take long to know that what you’re about to watch stands on its own as a movie with depth and good story-telling – a story most definitely rooted in a larger meta-myth. For me what struck me, or what reeled me in were the voice-overs – in a sense another character of the movie emerges in these background radio commentators. Here we have a narrator that sees into the deeper current that carries these characters and with that come warnings. A narrator that sometimes beckons it’s people back to themselves – their true selves. Other times – the voice tells us the lay of the land, a land that is classically Americana which always includes a religious and spiritual tonality – and when it comes to Americana ... religion ... spirituality – it’s always a mixed bag. Where there is light shadows always lurk in dark corners.

There are twists but again, not the typical ones. Twists of character and the plot of their lives take turns they or we don’t expect and even if our hunches prove true, it is just nuanced enough to make you take pause and muse. Even something as simple as the name “Stone” takes on a different meaning at the end, nothing over-stated or that even every viewer will pick up, but credit for that goes to the religious overtones of the movie which serve as reminders of stones in all it’s biblical splendour and symbolic richness.
Edward Norton is, as always, believable, getting us to swing between mistrust and empathy for his character and Robert De Niro defies his own stereotype – he is neither superficially comic or tough guy but tormented and nuanced. The female lead is also striking in her authenticity – if I saw her in the West End – I wouldn’t be surprised. I recommend this one highly.

(Alert – a wee bit of sexuality but not the gratuitous kind)