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Friday, January 26, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Seraphim Falls" | What if Bond time-traveled to the 19th century?

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Seraphim Falls," with Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Anjelica Huston, Michael Wincott, Ed Lauter, Robert Baker, John Robinson. Directed by David Von Ancken, from a screenplay by Von Ancken and Abby Everett Jaques. 115 minutes. Rated R for violence and brief language. Uptown, Lincoln Square.

In the early scenes of David Von Ancken's moody Western "Seraphim Falls," we watch a grizzled Pierce Brosnan get shot, swim over a waterfall, start a fire with gunpowder, cut the bullet from his shoulder, put the knife in the fire, press the knife against the wound and, whimpering, collapse in unbearable pain. Except for that last bit, you could be forgiven for wondering if James Bond had time-traveled back a century and grown whiskers.

It's a gritty performance from the usually smooth Brosnan, and it adds some spice to this well-crafted but unremarkable chase drama. Set shortly after the end of the Civil War, it's essentially a two-character tale of one man pursuing another. Col. Morsman Carver (Liam Neeson), with a small posse, is tracking down Gideon (Brosnan), whom he is determined to kill. That's all we know, for much of the movie; it takes some time before we start to understand who Gideon is, and why there is such bad blood between these men. The story unfolds with a minimum of dialogue, told mostly through the cold glint in both men's eyes. A few flashbacks fill in the detail, but by the time they come, we almost don't need them.

While Neeson and Brosnan are always watchable, the film at times drags; its level of tension doesn't really vary (except for one brief, powerful flashback), and so eventually the thrill of the chase wears thin. But it's saved, in its last act, by a delicious drop-in from Anjelica Huston as Madame Louise, a miragelike purveyor of mysterious remedies. Licking her lips in self-satisfaction, she purrs her lines from her stagecoach perch as she finds the men in a barren desert. "You men are always choosing a gun over a remedy," she says, letting the line arch like the back of a cat stretching in the sun. "Seraphim Falls" doesn't really end; rather, it fades away. As one of the men notes, "Only the dead know the end of war."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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