A History of Violence
This is director David Cronenberg’s best film. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, it’s a shocking depiction of how the past will always come back to haunt you, and how violent acts, even valiant ones, can permanently stain the psyche. Viggo Mortensen is astounding as Tom Stall, a small-town diner owner who shows extreme aptitude when defending himself against two violent intruders. A mysterious man with a cloudy eye (Ed Harris) shows up in the aftermath, insisting that Tom is somebody else. Cronenberg includes some of his trademark extreme violence and sexuality, but none of it is gratuitous. When a man goes down from a gun wound or lethal punch, Cronenberg shows the severity of that man’s injury at the hand of another man, the terrible consequences of violence. Maria Bello is Oscar worthy as Stall’s confused wife, and Mortensen should find himself in contention as well. It’s a pretty ugly movie, so it will be interesting to see if the Academy chooses to acknowledge it in any way.