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Monty's Moral Debate

by Walker Flythe

Montgomery Brogan’s rant is undeniably one of the most memorable moments from the film 25th Hour.  His criticisms are painfully accurate and spiteful. Monty lashes out in conceivable direction.  His attacks are by no means limited to race as he assaults careers, cultures, and even individuals.

            The rant itself develops in a very similar manner to the arc of the story.  He opens by condemning a massive cross-section of New York’s residents.  From there he goes on to attack his friends and family.  What begins as a desperate angry tirade turns to a search for blame.  Finally this search leads Monty’s reflection to the city itself, which he curses profusely.  Indeed New York, in its entirety, may be Monty’s most accurate admonishment of blame, as is highlighted by Lee’s shot’s increasing focus on the city landscape.  However, he cut’s himself off, or more accurately his reflection, by saying “No. No, fuck you, Montgomery Brogan.”  This is Monty’s acknowledgment of his own paramount role in his eventual demise.  This reflects on the larger issue consequences and guilt prevalent throughout the film.

            This monologue is thematically interesting as rather than directly addressing the audience, Monty addresses his own in reflection.  However, the clip is by no means subtle.  Presenting mental turmoil through a man arguing with his own reflection would typically be tactless, but the shocking intensity of the conversation stylistically overshadows this bold representation.  The shot itself is an interesting choice by Lee as well.  The director frames Monty’s reflection through an unnaturally long over the shoulder shot of Monty himself.  This entirely unrealistic shot creates a degree distanciation for the audience and casts an objective ambiguity over Monty’s internal debate.  The use of the mirror also allows the film address itself as well as the audience.  Lee’s ambivalence with regards to Monty’s emotions reflects on the nature of the film as a whole.

Addressing the Direct Address in 25th Hour

by Clint Upchurch

In 25th Hour, Spike Lee examines human nature raising questions regarding morality and blame throughout the course of the film and addresses them in Monty Brogan’s “Fuck You” monologue.  Lee uses the protagonist’s direct address to the audience, a common tool in his cinematographic repertoire, to captures Brogan’s monologue.  The direct address in 25th Hour is similar to many of Lee’s direct addresses as it isolates an individual who looks directly into the camera and discusses the major thematic ideas.  25th Hour’s direct address is unique because Lee incorporates an over the shoulder throughout the rather lengthy shot to capture Brogan’s face.  Brogan’s face is juxtaposed with the words “Fuck You” written on the mirror creating two Brogan’s with different ideals.  Also, Lee cuts to shots of the groups Brogan is attacking making this particular direct address style unique from other Lee direct addresses because he features shots of the people to which Monty is referring.   

Throughout the course of the film, Lee raises questions of moral ambiguity and with whom the blame for Monty’s actions should reside. This is reflected in Brogan’s monologue.  Brogan, who is established as the hero at the beginning of the film when he rescues the dying dog, attacks other people groups in New York City from a moral high ground.  Lee uses an over the shoulder shot into the mirror to capture Brogan’s face which suggests an ambiguity as we aren’t privy to a direct shot of his face, creating two identities- the mirror Monty and the physical Monty.  Furthermore, Brogan’s drug trafficking conviction brings into question his morality and suggests that his evaluation of other people throughout New York City is not fair or accurate but rather propagate stereotypes.  In a similar manner, Monty shares the blame of his conviction for drug trafficking with all of those he attacks in his monologue, suggesting that in some way they caused him to traffic heroin and consequently should be at fault for the crime just like him.  This ambiguity in morality and where blame should fall contributes  is expressed in the over the shoulder shot which shows two different Monty’s coexisting and expressing different ideals.  Monty’s dialogue with his reflection suggests his own perception of racism relying on stereotypes to distribute blame for his own failures. Ultimately, Brogan takes responsibility for his own actions when he states to his morally ambiguous reflection, “No. No, fuck you, Montgomery Brogan. You had it all, and you threw it away, you dumb fuck!”  This follows the thematic sequence of the movie as Monty’s ultimate decision is not to run from his impending incarceration.  

Addressing the Direct Address

by Michelle Robinson

This clip by will be used to explore the technique of direct address as it is employed in the films of director Spike Lee. In attempt to understand the variety of uses for and thematic depth of this technique, students will examine the direct address in the Spike Lee films Inside Man, 4 Little Girls, 25th Hour, and Do the Right Thing, comparing the consistent effects of this shot across some of Lee’s films, but also the variances in subtlety, social commentary, and film genre. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2012).

Monty's Monologue

This clip from director Spike Lee's 25th Hour features Monty Brogan's (Edward Norton) famous monologue about post 9/11 America.

from 25th Hour (2002)
Creator: Spike Lee
Distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Posted by Michelle Robinson