The Ledge (2011)

Drama, Thriller
Charlie Hunnam, Terrence Howard, Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler
A police officer looks to talk down a young man lured by his lover's husband to the ledge of a high rise, where he has one hour to contemplate a fateful decision.
  • IFC Films Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 26 May 2011 Released:
  • 27 Sep 2011 DVD Release:
  • $5.2k Box office:

All subtitles:


Challenging and Thought Provoking9/10
I saw a preview of The Ledge two months ago and instantly thought it is the beginning of a whole new genre of film that gets away from the cliche world of most films. It explores nuances of life, ethics, love and religion that are not easily classified. While it is a thriller, it is also much more. If you are not thinking about this movie for days or weeks after, you probably weren't watching. I challenge you to put yourself into each of the characters and recognize how powerful world views can influence decisions and behavior. Of all the characters, I thought the policeman and his life dilemma was most compelling. It seems to tie the whole movie together. I think the final scene of the movie was a little weak and may have actually detracted from the overall effect. I would have done the ending a little different but it is a small quibble over a great viewing experience but that is why it gets a 9 instead of a full 10. The fact that I am writing this review two months after seeing the preview is testament to the impact it can have.
Stunning, intelligent thriller about the dangers of heart vs. head!10/10
It's not hard to put together a monster film. You throw one insane guy together with a hero, and add a car chase. The Ledge is nothing like this, and that's why it's so impressive.

The main struggle is between a Christian with extreme beliefs, and an Atheist who just wants out. Uniquely, it's the only film I can think of that has an openly atheist hero and an A-list cast. And ironically, the few people who have complained about this show exactly what the film is trying to portray: that some people are so intolerant of atheism that even one movie among the thousands in history is too much for them.

To me, the star of this film is Patrick Wilson, who plays the fundamentalist. Instead of becoming a monster, his portrayal links completely normal passions like love and protection and revenge that we can all identify with, but then takes it to the natural conclusion, egged on by his convictions that anything he decides to do must be blessed.

Thus the central thesis of the film -- that belief can go too far -- is played out on a small stage. This is a drama of just 6 people, but the intricate explosions between them pull at the heartstrings far more effectively than a car chase in an action film would. We hear so much about the dangers of religion in big stories like 9-11, gay rights, and abortion rights. Here is a film about the dangerous of religion in the everyday, the dramas so commonplace that everyone who watches can find something in their own lives to compare it with.

Sure, I've never walked out onto The Ledge. But something about the masterful writing and acting in this film creates an authenticity that is undeniable.

Go ahead. Rant against atheism. Show us how intolerant you are. Violent words and deeds are the response of someone backed into a corner, desperate not to lose it all, just like "Joe" is in this film.
Complex and heart-wrenching9/10
I've just seen this film tonight at the Sundance Film Festival. It was the first film on my Sundance list because I had a chance to meet Chris Gorham at another screening a few months ago, and he's been talking about it.

I was concerned, however, as I started seeing very mixed reviews. As I walked in I was prepared to be bored, preached at, and left with a very predictable life-affirming message. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Let's start with the talent. Gavin, Charlie Hunnam looking like a cross between a young Ryan O'Neal and the late Heath Ledger (complete with fake American accent), eats up most of the screen time, and he's neither hero (a man who falls in love) nor villain (a man who destroys a marriage). That's a sign of a complex character, because real life is seldom black or white. You like him enough, though, not to want him to die. Terrence Howard is predictably good though his character is a little flat compared to the others, Liv Tyler -- who I've never been a fan of before -- turned in a fantastic multi-dimensional performance. Christopher Gorham, as Gavin's roommate, makes a fine showing as well, despite there being very little of it. (Any more of Chris's story would have seemed a forced, unnecessary subplot.) The standout performance, I thought, came from Patrick Wilson as Tyler's Christian fundamentalist husband. For the first half hour I was distracted by the fact that he's a Will Arnett doppelganger, but by the end of the movie he's become frighteningly snakelike.

You expect the Christian extremist to be the bad guy, the evil one. But that's not what happens. Of course he's the bad guy, and yes, he's got views that many people won't agree with, but, through the good writing and his performance, I admired his passion, and even though I didn't agree with his rigid views, I felt his incredible pain as he discovers his wife's infidelity. Some of the folks I was with considered his character over the top, and it is definitely extreme complete with profuse sweating, but you don't really know what direction he's going to turn next, and that's an interesting villain. By the end of the movie my sympathy for him was gone, but I like the fact that he had enough layers that I could feel his pain and hate him at the same time.

The movie certainly made me think, there's a lot of religious and philosophical discussion, but more impact was made by all the pure emotion going on. In case you might think it too cerebral, there was plenty of tension along the way. Like every other scene in the movie, as Gavin stands on the ledge you have no idea which way it might go. In the end, Gavin makes a choice, one life over another, that he faced years before, and this time he makes the "right" choice, at least in his heart. It is not a story about an atheist versus a Christian, anymore than it is really a story about a guy standing on a ledge. And let's not leave out some of the lovely scenes between Tyler & Hunnam as their relationship grows. The film, told mostly in flashback, is quite the emotional roller coaster until it rolls clean off the tracks.

I'm looking forward to seeing it play on IFC so I can appreciate the nuances a little more without being too concerned about the outcome. Matthew Chapman definitely has a lot to say (as he did at the post-film Q&A), and I'm eager to see his next move.
Good, but not the "Atheist Brokeback Mountain."7/10
I think the harsh criticisms of the film are outright ridiculous—along with the excessive accolades. From a basic film critique: The Ledge definitely delivers on maintaining tension/suspense. I think the subtleties here (e.g., Liv Tyler's anti-make-up "make-up") will cause people to feel uncomfortable, but without knowing that it's all intentional.

There is a massive delusion among Christians that fundamentalism and religiously inspired bigotry only manifest in a small percentage of extremists. This just isn't true. If it was, I'd feel dramatically safer and more comfortable in public discussing atheism with a stranger!

The atmosphere is very realistic, and the uncomfortable (at times) dialog is accurate to the reality of proselytism in the guise of philosophical discussion. The movie even captures how many atheists feel when observing prayer, and this is very rare to see in the spot light.

I really wasn't convinced by any of the characters' back-stories. They seemed unnecessarily extreme in a movie that is driven by its subtleties. They really contrasted with the rest of the writing, and broke the illusion of realism. I also didn't find the acting convincing on this level. In particular: Given Shauna's history, she seemed to be unrealistically open and trusting towards Gavin—their interactions felt a bit contrived and very rushed.

Unfortunately the film doesn't explore its topics at much depth, while presenting more rudimentary/common arguments. However, this only added realism to the dialog for me. I feel it has more intellectually to offer symbolically than literally.

The Ledge displays a psychological perspective of an atheist through its atmosphere, and that alone makes it unique and worth seeing.
A grand film10/10
First off I am an atheist, so I was anxiously awaiting this. I have actually been experiencing old friends and family coming to me asking what happened to make me lose my faith. Nothing I say over and over then launch in to explaining everything again. This movie was phenomenal and now I can say "hey you know what, go watch the ledge"

I thought all the characters seemed believable, both in their lines and beliefs. The storytelling bounces around a bit which I love, it allows you to make assumptions and try to figure everything out before its revealed.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Ledge, and I plan on buying it on DVD so I can lend it to people. I can only hope that this does alright and more atheist protagonists are created.