Seraphim Falls (15)

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For about an hour, David Von Ancken's feature debut shapes up as one of the tautest and harshest chase movies ever in the Western genre. It opens on a snowy, bone-chillingmountainscape as a grizzled fugitive (Pierce Brosnan) narrowly escapes a posse of armed hunters led by Liam Neeson. The chase heats up thereafter, though the film is more than halfway done by the time we learn why Neeson is so implacable in his pursuit. In its Civil War backdrop, its obvious forebear is The Outlaw Josey Wales, while Brosnan and Neeson go head to head over who's the toughest nut, with Brosnan shading it by dint of the surgery he performs on his own wound.

John Toll's atmospheric cinematography switches fluently from snowbound blue-grey forests to the parched shimmer of desert plains, before the film finally rides itself into exhaustion: the hallucinatory and allegorical tenor of the last 15 minutes does a disservice to the savagely realistic first half. A pity, because Von Ancken at times brings his debut very close to something grand and memorable.