25th Hour was based on a novel and screenplay written by David Benioff, a relatively new face in Hollywood. Spike Lee picked up the idea and decided to move forward with it, directing the film in 2002. The film was quite successful, like most of Lee's other projects, and makes some strong statements.
The basis of the story is that a wealthy drug dealer named Montgomery Brogan has just been busted by the DEA. He has lived comfortably in New York City with a townhouse and a beautiful wife named Naturelle for quite some time, but now he is facing a lengthy seven year sentence in prison. As the day that he must go to jail approaches, he reflects on his life and tries to enjoy himself.
During his final day as a free man, Montgomery, or Monty as his friends call him, seeks his friends from high school. One of them, Jacob Elinsky, is a high school teacher and the other, Frank Slaugherty, is a very successful stock trader. He also visits his father, James Brogan, who owns a bar in the area.
One of the things that made this film great was the tremendous cast. In the lead role of Monty is Edward Norton, who gives a very convincing and emotional performance. His friends Jacob and Frank are played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper, respectively. His wife Naturelle is played by Rosario Dawson and his father James is played by film veteran Brian Cox.
The movie takes place in the present day, just after the attacks on the world trade center on September 11, 2001 (9/11). Rather than ignoring the events, the film incorporates them by showing scenes of the clean up and the strong sense of unity and strength in New York City. The film has a very patriotic feel to it, and we see many images to reflect that, including United States flags blowing in the wind.
I also loved the soundtrack of the film. It is very foreboding and sad, but at the same time patriotic. This reflects the parallel between Monty going to jail and September 11th, since both events are sad, but there is hope for the future. It is mostly classical with the exception of some club songs when the group goes to a night club.
Another unique aspect of this film is the ending (spoiler warning). We know that Monty's dad mortgaged his bar for bail, but he still offers to take him west to escape prison. The film shows a lengthy scenario that shows Monty's entire life after escaping, but then returns and leaves the ending a total mystery. I found it unnerving that no ending was decided upon, but it makes the picture all that more powerful.
Overall, I thought the movie was very powerful and exemplary in implementation. Everything from the scenery to the plot seems to flow perfectly, which is hard to accomplish with a movie that features a lot of flashbacks. I definitely recommend that you buy or rent this movie since it is a masterpiece.