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Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel. A harrowing tale of one fateful night in the life of an average couple, told through inventive camera techniques and imaginative storytelling in reverse chronological order. 2003/color/97 min/UR/widescreen.
Irreversible begins with the closing credits running backwards before the film begins (or ends) with Marcus (Vincent Cassell) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) being escorted out of a gay S&M club by the cops, Marcus with his arm broken and Pierre in handcuffs. The "story" proceeds to unwind in a series of single-take scenes that unfold Memento-style, with each scene giving more context to what we have seen previously. Each scenario depicts actions, dialogue, incident, behavior, and circumstances that the lead characters might have wished didn't happen, ranging from extreme violence through awkward social situations to mild embarrassment. The central character (and possible dreamer of this whole what-if story) emerges as Alex (Monica Bellucci), who suffers the worst in a very hard-to-watch rape sequence in an underpass. Semi-improvised, the scenes all have attack and power as themes, with later/earlier conversational sequences that suggest life isn't all sexual assaults in the dark, showing equal cinematic imagination with the horrors. Arguably, this is not a film most would subject themselves to twice, but it is something that stays in the mind for days after viewing, sparking far more ideas and emotions than most wallow-in-nastiness pictures. --Kim Newman
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First, I thought, This guy doesn't know how to make a movie. (I had never seen a movie by director Noe.) Then I realized it was running from end to beginning.
After that, there was the killing scene. But first, Marcus had his arm broken. That was obviously a prop and the break looked too easy. A downer. If you want to be violent, do it more realistically. Ooops! Then the killing scene with a fire extinguisher. Well, two blows were enough, I thought. Six? Okay. Sounds good. TWENTY-THREE? That was too much. I was mesmerized, because there must have been a good reason.
Then, the ultra-long rape scene. I was nauseated. To tell you the truth, I am an advocate of the death penalty for rapists and this film confirmed my feelings.
Monica Bellucci is one incredible actress to put that performance the way she did. I do not believe there are many ladies who can do that type of scene. She is fantastic. Not to mention the difficulty of the whole episode. It was incredible.
After the end of this movie, I had ro recognize mastery in director Gaspar Noe and admire this film.
Some of the reviews call it exploitive and some call it a revenge film... I'd say it's absolutely neither. It doesn't use the violence/rape as a tool for satisfaction and it doesn't use it as an excuse for later actions. In a typical revenge film the initial incident (in this case the rape of Alex) is merely the starting point for the revenge character (in this case Marcus) to go on a wild spree righting the wrongs (the fire extinguisher scene). However, because we are initially shocked and horrified by the murder with the fire extinguisher, we gain no satisfaction from it, so it's hardly called revenge (knowing it's the wrong man doesn't help either). When we see the rape scene we know there is no satisfaction in the "revenge", so it's merely disturbing and doesn't serve as an excuse for Marcus' actions. It proceeds to a small fight at a party which ends in Alex leaving - gut wrenching, if you didn't have your eyes closed for what the character had to go through 10 minutes earlier. Then, end with Marcus and Alex happily together in bed pissing away time as two people very comfortable with each other might do. Ultimately the fact that it ends with calm and caring scenes is all the more depressing... You know their future, while they sit there idly blissful.
This film would have been grossly different had it been in chronological order. It could easily be called an exploitive revenge flick with extreme violence and odd structure (an unsatisfying ending and with disproportionately happy beginning) - I'd bet chronologically it'd be an NC-17. While, fundamentally, the order as it stands makes this a film against rape and murder - certainly there was no satisfaction taken from either of them and the direction demanded that the impact be fully felt.