American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully. -- Dr. Johnson
Tomorrow morning, Monty Brogan is turning himself in to begin a prison term. His two best friends lean on a railing , look out over the river, and agree "it's over." They will never see Monty again. He may be alive in eight years, but he won't be the Monty they've known since they were kids. Monty Brogan also knows this. So do his girlfriend and his father. It will all end after tonight.
Monty's mind is very concentrated. There is a sense, in Spike Lee's "25th Hour" (2002), that he's experiencing his last day of freedom in a heightened state. Everything is more focused, more meaningful, sometimes dreamy. He has his ideas about how he got here and who may have been involved, but there is little he can do about that now. From the choices still open to him, he focuses now on the remaining important things: His woman, his father, his friends, and unsettled business.
Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) is on hold; supportive, loving, but feeling shut out. Jacob and Frank (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper) are very sympathetic, but after all they are still free to live their lives. His father (Brian Cox) bitterly blames himself for drinking his way into such debt that he took "loans" from his son. Barry (Edward Norton) is intelligent. He sees his mistakes clearly. It was a mistake to get into drug dealing when he had the chance. It was a mistake to stay in it as long as he did. It was a mistake to think he could hide a lot of cash and cocaine, and a mistake to let anyone know where it was hidden.