"doesn’t shy away from bloodshed and violence, however the fanaticism twist in the story makes the movie interesting to follow"
Born from a mix between western and the thriller genre, Brimstone is a film that balances cowboys, religion and suspense all in one well structured story.
The movie doesn't follow a chronological order and it tells the protagonist's story by dividing it in three chapters; the audience is introduced to the female protagonist in medias res. Liz is a mute midwife living peacefully with her husband and children in a remote little town.
Her life changes when a new reverend comes to town, Liz seems to already know him and just wants to stay away from him. Since their first meeting, the shared hatred is palpable and it is evident that somehow, she is scared of him and the reverend is obsessed with her. Throughout the movie the audience uncovers Liz’s sordid, unfortunate past and her connection to the reverend.
In a western, violence is part of the plot; it is what makes the story move forward with the rivalry between the gold seekers, the research for justice and the shoot-out being the lifeline of this genre. However, Brimstone goes a step further and adds to the mix religious fanaticism and supernatural.
Each chapter in the film takes its title from the Bible and those are not the only references to God. Christianity, purity and sin are at the film’s core.
The reverend is the spiritual guide of a religious community of Danish immigrants, who are settling in America. He believes that the only way for everyone to repent and find salvation in a foreign land filled with temptation, is to abide by God’s rules and teachings. In this community, men and women have their place and whomever can’t respect that, will be punished.
While the reverend’s only purpose in life is to fulfil God’s will no matter the cost, Liz doesn’t conform at all to the gender norms of what is expected from women, she is the main female character of this story; she is independent, strong, stubborn and doesn’t believe that the only right place for a woman is one foot behind her husband.
Throughout her life she had to survive every kind of abuse. However, instead of being weakened by them, she has become stronger and determined to protect her family.
For a film that is built on the eternal rivalry between a man of God, who took his words too far, and a woman who is ready to sacrifice herself to protect the people she loves, the story holds itself together thanks to the stellar cast portraying these complicated characters.
Dakota Fanning is brilliant as Liz; without so much as uttering a word for most of the film, she is capable of conveying a wide rage of emotions just with her facial expressions.
Liz is introduced has a character with strong will power. She doesn’t bend to any conventional ideas of a woman; her relationship with her husband is based on respect and trust. However, her strength comes from a life of hardship and the audience gets to uncover her story slowly throughout the movie by going back in her past.
Dakota Fanning consistently brings to the screen Liz’s strength and fears flawlessly. She builds her performance up until the very end of the film, leaving the audience with a bittersweet taste in their mouth in the very last scene.
Along with Liz the other pillar of the story is the reverend portrayed by Guy Pierce who shows once again how easy it is for him to portray a hateful character whose obsession is crossing the line with insanity. His reverend is so concerned about what the bible says and how men and women should act, in order to fulfil his destined purpose, he is ready to sin.
It is his insane quest to find Liz that makes him almost immortal. No matter the risk he has to have her and purge her from her crimes. As a woman, Liz was created to serve him and, come hell or high water, he will have her. Guy Pierce’s performance is exemplary. He is capable of portraying a dangerous and an unstoppable man without effort. As the two main characters, Dakota Fanning and Pierce hold the entire movie on their shoulders and their antagonism is what keeps the story alive.
The rest of the cast ensemble has rare gems who help the plot thicken; particularly worth to note are the two GOT alumni Carice Van Houten and Kit Harington. So far away from the character who made them famous, these two actors embraced the challenge of portraying Liz’s mother and her first romantic interest in the film. Their performance is brilliant and they compliment Guy’s performance perfectly without falling behind his shadow.
As any well respected western, Brimstone doesn’t shy away from bloodshed and violence, however the fanaticism twist in the story makes the movie interesting to follow and it gives the characters the chance to evolve and become well-rounded. The eternal fight between temporal and spiritual power takes shape in this story and is brought to its extreme, gifting the story with a supernatural twist that keeps the audience glued to the screen even against their will.