Innocence is a kind of insanity.
Sam Worthington is front and center of this film, in a role that requires very little from him. He stars as Nick Cassidy, an escaped convict who soon catches the eye of every person, from the media to common bystanders to the police. "Would you like the larger room on the left side of the building for the same price?" he is asked by the concierge at the desk. He replies, "No. I'll stick with the view." View indeed. It isn't long before he climbs outside of his 21st story room and threatens to jump. Why? While he doesn't say it outright at first, it turns into a ploy to prove his innocence of a crime he was convicted of years ago.
I might have liked Man on a Ledge even more had I not seen the trailer. This is an exciting suspense picture that loses much of the mystery with its overexposing marketing. There are many details that may have seemed like creative twists in the plot had I gone in more blindly. Whatever details were given away though, there are still more that come as surprises during the film. My recommendation would be to go in knowing as little as possible.
The film features a full cast. Elizabeth Banks stars as a psychologist for jumpers who tries to coax Cassidy off of the ledge. Kyra Sedgwick offers comic relief with her role as top news reporter, Suzie Morales, who makes sure she is headlining every story. Ed Harris, Edward Burns, and Jamie Bell (Tintin!) costar as well. What's interesting is that while the film features many familiar faces in front of the camera, everyone behind the camera seems to be a newbie. Director Asger Leth has never made a big name film before. Writer Pablo F. Fenjves has only written TV movies. In fact the only people in charge of the crew who have worked on big scale projects before are three producers who have worked on the Transformers films and Red.
This is a good first project to work on. The setup is simple, but there is enough of a challenge in details that need to be executed with precision. It's in those details, however, where it's evident that there is lack of experience. Some things don't seem to add up by the end. Some of the resolutions seem too timely and convenient. The setup is very promising and engaging, but the last third of the film is rough around the edges as not everything comes together as smoothly.
Where Man on a Ledge succeeds the most is in its pacing. There is never a dull moment. Suspenseful music overlays every scene. The movie is layered with different plotlines that blend well. The revelations in the mystery are spaced out well throughout the film. This is a very gripping picture that holds your attention from start to finish.
The movie also has a really good sense of humor. It's not that it's full of jokes. It's that the film doesn't feel heavy. There's a buoyancy to the material that works exceptionally well. The audience I was in was laughing throughout, and the most consistent laughter was at the crowd in the film that's standing at the base of the building. As they all pull out their camera phones, cheer the man on, and chant for him to jump, we laugh. Interesting, isn't it? We laugh in spite of ourselves.
At the beginning of the review, I mentioned that this movie is all about limits. I think that applies to how it was made as well. Man on a Ledge knows its limits. This is interesting, but not jaw-dropping, material. The acting is good, but not exceptional. The action is exciting, but nothing we haven't seen before. The movie doesn't overshoot its potential. Here is a film that knows what it wants to accomplish and does so with ease. This is well-executed escapism. Will this be a film many remember at the end of the year? Probably not. But it makes for a nice break in the typical slog of January.