Louder than Bombs stars Jesse Eisenberg in a normal acting role – or, one in which he isn’t playing the typical eccentric geek with a twitch.
Norwegian director Joachim Trier (who is a distant relative to Lars von Trier) has already had considerable success in his native country with Reprise (2006) and Oslo, August 31st (2011); this is his first English language feature. For those who simply can’t put up with subtitled movies, Louder than Bombs represents a fine opportunity for you to sample a piece of top quality European cinema without the language barrier.
War, depression, infidelity, and the effects of such issues on the family unit… these are the themes tackled here. The best European cinema can do two things; tackle tough themes while still managing to entertain the audience, and tackle those themes without forcefully smacking you over the face with them. Trier’s new film comfortably does both, telling its story with intelligence and subtlety while inserting light-hearted moments of humour at just the right times.
Eisenberg plays Jonah, a young man whose wife gives birth in the opening scene. Said wife is played by Amy Ryan who, following her appearance in the opening scene, is restricted to mostly acting over Skype. We soon learn that Jonah’s mother Isabelle, played by Isabelle Huppert in flashback sequences, is a former war-zone photo journalist – a job for which she had to spend weeks and months away from her family – who was killed a few years ago. The reason behind her death, a suspected suicide, becomes an issue that father and sons have to fully come to terms with over the course of the film.
Gabriel Byrne plays Gene Reed, Jonah’s father, while Devin Druid plays his somewhat awkward, introverted younger brother Conrad. The trio have their own intriguing character arcs to come through, and Trier gives equal attention to each of them, while their mother’s shadow continues to hang over the family.
Performances in this film aren’t flashy by any means, but the subtlety with which they are handled is immaculate. As for Trier’s style of directing, there are times when he surprises you with metaphorical imagery and some simply beautiful camera shots, but his film always remains firmly grounded in gritty reality. Absolutely worth your time if you like movies that delicately challenge taboos and make you think.
8 / 10