Film: Seraphim Falls
"Only the dead know the end of war."A 2006 cult western which boils down to 90 minutes of Liam Neeson chasing Pierce Brosnan across the wilder parts of Nevada.An unknown event during the final days of the American Civil War has made captain Gideon, who fought for the Union, the arch-enemy of ex-Confederate colonel Carver. Now Carver is out for revenge. He’s gathered a team of mercenary trackers and they’ve managed to pick up Gideon’s trail. However, at first Gideon doesn’t actually know why he is being chased; the viewer follows his struggle to stay alive as he begins to understand what horrible part of his past has come to haunt him.The movie starts out as a straightforward manhunt, but gradually takes a more philosophical turn. Its surreal final scenes decidedly make it stand out from the average western or revenge movie (and some of their significance will only be apparent to those who are really paying attention).
— Carver, quoting Plato
This film provides examples of:
- Anti-Hero / Anti-Villain: Gideon and Carver. Or Carver and Gideon, due to Grey and Gray Morality.
- Audible Sharpness
- Badass: Gideon. He told you to leave him be.
- Badass Beard: Gideon.
- Badass Longcoat: Carver.
- Badass Preacher: the priest of the religious settlers claims that the scar in his neck is from a gunfight with Mormons. Which he won.
- The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In
- Colonel Badass / Retired Badass: both main characters appear to have been war heroes for their respective sides. Gideon in particular has a legendary reputation – he is said to have once killed a hundred men in a single battle.
- Combat Pragmatist: Gideon knows better than to fight with honour when the odds are stacked so heavily against him. Carver apparently isn’t much for fairness either – when he and Gideon are both disarmed, his fighting method consists entirely of him punching his opponent repeatedly on the gunshot wound in his arm.
- Crapsack World: the Wild West is mostly shown as this, and Carver believes everywhere else is the same. “Nobody can protect nobody in this world.”
- Determinator: again, both of the main characters. The entire plot is a show of just how determined they are.
- Death Equals Redemption: probably. The ending is ambiguous.
- Deal with the Devil: both characters end up making deals with someone who very well may be the literal Devil, aka Madame Louise. Both trade something that would make it easier for them to survive (Gideon's horse, Carver's water) for something that will perpetuate their feud ( a bullet for Gideon, a gun for Carver).
- Disposable Woman: Family, in this case.
- Dueling-Stars Movie: The main appeal of the film is the showdown between Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson, two greatly respected Irish actors.
- Fake American: Both Brosnan and Neeson are Irishmen playing Americans. Amusing when both separately encounter an Irish foreman of a railroad construction crew, played by the American Xander Berkeley, and Gideon taunts one of his (American) underlings by calling him "Paddy Boy"
- Five-Bad Band: the trackers, in a way. Carver is the Big Bad with Hayes as his Dragon. Parsons, having more experience than the others, is The Evil Genius; Pope is arguably The Brute with the Kid acting as The Dark Chick.
- Inevitable Waterfall: pretty much right at the beginning.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Gideon has scars around his right eye; they are in a “good scars” location, but rough enough to count as “evil scars” too.
- Grey and Gray Morality: very much so. Carver’s thirst for revenge seems justified, but his utter ruthlessness and stubborn conviction make his righteousness a matter of opinion. Gideon is introduced as a helpless victim, but we gradually realize that he’s a little too good at killing people, and then we learn what he (kind of) did to Carver.
- It's All About Me: Carver does not care too much about his goons.
- Kick the Dog: Carver makes sure there is no way for his goons to win except through helping him by shooting the horse. Besides, he told you the horse was his.
- Knife Nut: Gideon’s weapon of choice is a massive Bowie knife. He also uses it for a variety of non-combat survival purposes, as soldiers are trained to do.
- Lou Cypher: In a blink-and-you'll miss it moment a sign on the back of Madame Louise's wagon says "Louise C. Fair, Proprietor," implying Madame Louise is the Devil
- Magical Native American: When the film veers into Magical Realism in the third act, a Native American man played by Wes Studi appears to each of the two main characters by a water hole in the middle of a barren desert. He trades Pierce Brosnan's character some water for the horse that Brosnan had stolen from Liam Neeson, then gives Neeson the horse for free. When Neeson gives him money anyway, he discards the coins. His name is listed as Charon in the credits, and the film suggests that he's a demon who is engineering a final confrontation between the two nemeses.
- Only a Flesh Wound: horribly averted. In the first scene, Gideon is shot in the arm; he suffers from the wound for the entire duration of the movie, and Carver uses this to his advantage when they get down to Good Old Fisticuffs.
- Pet the Dog: When Carver and his band leaves the farm, Carver orders that Pope's horse be left behind.
- Punch Clock Villain: the trackers. They become more and more reluctant to serve Carver as they discover how dangerous their prey is. He keeps them on his side by renegotiating their pay several times and denying them a way out of the hunt.
- Real Men Love Jesus: Whereas Carver is a Hollywood Atheist, Gideon wears a crucifix, and prays just before riding out into the desert. He also quotes the Bible to Carver: "Those who live by the sword, shall perish by the sword."
- Revenge Before Reason: after Hayes dies, Gideon rides off into the desert and certain death. Carver still goes after him.
- Satan: Madame Louise’s full name is written on the back of her wagon:Louise C. Fair.
- Scenery Porn: and lots of it.
- Title Drop