Directed By: Henry Bean
Written By: Henry Bean, Mark Jacobson
Produced By: Susan Hoffman, Christopher Roberts
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Garret Dillahunt, Joel Garland, Billy Zane, Summer Phoenix
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes
Review Date: December 10, 2010
It’s hard not to like Ryan Gosling. Even as a drugged-up teacher in Half Nelson, you still felt a pull toward him. The Believer is no exception. Had another actor assumed the role of neo-Nazi Danny Balint, you might not enjoy the movie. The fact that Gosling captivates you from the beginning makes you intrigued throughout the film, which at times is a bit hard to watch.
Very reminiscent of American History X, The Believer takes a Jewish kid and makes him a neo-Nazi lover. With flashbacks to Danny’s childhood, you begin to formulate how this Jewish kid can don a Nazi flag on his t-shirt.
Danny meets up with Curtis Zampf (Billy Zane), an extremist looking to “awaken” the government and create a shake-up in society. As Danny is so eloquent when speaking, Zampf and his team agree he could be the next thing the group needs to execute its proposed reign of terror. Every time Danny opens his mouth to preach on a matter, even if you disagree with what he’s saying, you’re mesmerized. He’s charismatic with his ideas, which terrifies you.
Throughout the film, you see Danny struggle with the Jewish practice ingrained in him and the right-wing extremist tendencies he so wants to perform. Seeing this parallel is very interesting and very pivotal as the film carries on.
Sundance awarded this film the coveted Grand Jury Prize back when it opened, and for good reason. The script, the cast and the cinematography make the viewer feel like they are a part of the film, rather than an outsider.
Gosling’s performance is so unreal, laying a blanket of why he deserves those roles outside of The Notebook like Fracture. It’s hard to believe, but Gosling went straight from his Hercules TV work and Remember the Titans to this dramatic psychological thriller. Clearly the guy knows what he’s doing.
There were many times when I had to close my eyes and turn away from the screen. But I could never turn the sound off or walk out of the room. Something about the film pulls you in and keeps you attentive.
The ending wasn’t my cup of tea, but a conclusion similar to most other indie films. Either way, this film made a believer out of me on Gosling’s dramatic acting chops.
Hanna Soltys is a green tea drinker and film critic living in Chicago.