Seraphim Falls, a Western about a man seeking revenge against a Civil War adversary long after the war's over, begins with a bang. Well, it actually starts with a very calm, beautiful, and lonely shot of a man named Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) cooking a small animal over an open fire in the snowy mountains of 1868 New Mexico. He moves slowly and seems comfortable in this natural and scenic setting.
And then comes the bang. Literally. Without warning, a bullet pierces his left arm. He jumps out of harm's way and falls down a steep snowy slope. Calmly and deliberately, a group of five armed men pursue him through the forest and over a waterfall.
When he's built somewhat of a lead, Gideon struggles to start a fire with one good arm and hands shaking from the bitter cold. And then, he performs painful self-surgery to remove the bullet. But his chasers—led by Carver (Liam Neeson) aren't far behind. And so, he keeps running. And the hunters keep chasing.
It's an energy-charged beginning with real suspense, great pacing, and an aggressive run-or-die tone. And it is unquestionably classic Western. It's sparse and gritty. There's little dialogue (and when there is, characters use Western-only phrases like "He done kilt them" and "thanks for that there stew of yorn"). The action occurs on an amazing landscape that reminds the audience of how small the characters are in the grand West. The theme is classic Western territory—revenge and self-administered justice.
And like many old Westerns of the 1950s and '60s, the plot points come naturally and slowly. We don't know who Gideon is. Or why he's being chased. Or even if he's the good guy or bad guy. Instead, we are seeing only the action. Someone is after him and he must run and ...1
Frequent television director David Von Ancken (Oz and The Shield) offers a thrilling meditation on the true nature of revenge with this post-Civil War era tale of a one man's quest to put his nemesis in the ground, and another man's struggle to survive at any cost. Deep in the snowy mountains of the American West, a lone man named Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) basks, lost in thought, in the warm glow of a small fire. When a shot suddenly rings out and a bullet whizzes just inches from his head, Gideon is suddenly pulled from his repose. His reaction is too slow, however, to save him from the impact of a second bullet fired immediately thereafter; a bullet that painfully lodges itself into the soft flesh of Gideon's tired shoulder. The man who fired these bullets is Colonel Morsman Carver (Liam Neeson), and Carver's goal is to hunt Gideon down like an animal and extract painful revenge for a past transgression that left Colonel Carver forever changed. From this point on, there will be no peace in either man's life as a harrowing game of kill-or-be-killed is played out against the backdrop of the awe-inspiring and deceptively treacherous wilderness where the unforgiving law of the land takes deadly precedence over the civility of modern society.