Brotherhood of the Wolf is not a movie for those faint of heart. There is a lot of death, and a quite a bit of blood to go along with it. But if you can look past that, BotW is a fantastic movie. Also, be aware to something that many people in the theatre with me did not know: This movie is in French. If you understand French, this is a definite plus, as many of the words are generically translated, and a few not translated at all. While it can be a bit annoying at times to read the subtitles, I found that it became a side note as I was carried into the story.
BotW is set in 18th century France, centered around the village Gevaudan. The main character, the Chevalier de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) is sent to the village to learn about a beast that has been roaming the countryside and attacking women and children for the past two years. Mani (Mark Dacascos), a Mohawk Indian martial arts expert, accompanies Fronsac and the two of them become determined to find out the true origins of the Beast. Besides having to escape the Beast, Fronsac must deal with aristocratic France, and the people who have placed their faith in believing what they see and not the underlying truths. There is also the pre-requisite love story, and countless action scenes. And in truth, the basic story is not much of anything new (what in Hollywood is these days?) and is also trying to be several things at once. Is it a love story, drama, an action, or a visual "art" film? It is all of these things at once, and while some things are more developed than others, they still all gel together to produce an enjoyable movie.
Visually, the only thing I found disappointing was the CGI work of the Beast itself. While the actual look of the Beast is impressive, some of its movements are a little too noticeably animated to be believable. However, most of those shots take place in the daylight, and there are many striking shots of the Beast stalking through the darkness. The camera work for most of the movie combines slow motion shots with sped-up action, which is becoming a common element in movies today. This method does get tiresome at times (a few too many uses of slow motion) but one scene in which it works quite well is during a fight scene at the beginning of the movie. As the rain pounds around the characters, you can almost feel them falling into the mud as the splash rings in your ears.
The director manages to make 18th century France look both beautiful and ugly at the same time, contrasting the gardens of Versailles with the dark, blue tinged forests and countryside of Gevaudan. This movie is sensual, visually stunning, and even though it is 140 minutes long and there are perhaps too many twists, it wholly entertaining. I left the theatre in a dreamy state.
Rating: Four Fairies
Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassell, Emilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci, Jérémie Rénier, Mark Dacascos
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Movie Ratings: Finland:K-15 / France:-12 / Germany:16 / Hungary:16 / Netherlands:16 / Norway:15 / Spain:13 / Sweden:15 / Switzerland:14 (canton of Geneva) / Switzerland:14 (canton of Vaud) / UK:15 / USA:R
Official Websites: French, English
Note: While this movie is playing in theatres in the United States and Canada, it is available on video/DvD in most European countries. Check your local stores for availability.