Connect with us

Movie Reviews

The Believer



Directed By: Henry Bean

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Billy Zane

Released: 2011

Reviewed By: William McAbee

What makes a person who they are? Is it what they are born into or is it what they make themselves into? Do we define ourselves? These are some of the many questions that The Believer tries to explore in its exploration of character Daniel Balint, a raised orthodox Jew who becomes a Neo-Nazi. I took a course recently, Theologians Under Hitler, where we explored the culture and religion behind the Nazi movement so I was very interested in the subject matter. It is a subject that need careful handling and cannot just be used loosely or else it will come across as an insult; like Life Is Beautiful came across. This was not the only reason I wanted to watch this indie flick from Henry Bean, it was also one of the earliest performances from the astonishing Ryan Gosling. I am a huge fan of his with some of his best performances that include Blue Valentine, Crazy Stupid Love, Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, and of course Drive. I always enjoy seeing great actors and actresses roots and see what made them into the superstars that they are; see also Michael Fassbender and Hunger. So read on if you want to see my thoughts on The Believer

The Believer follows the tale of Daniel Balint, a passionate Neo-Nazi who is vocal and physical about his beliefs. What makes Daniel stands out from most Neo-Nazis is that he is born Jewish and was raised in a Yeshiva yet still is one of the most anti-semitic characters on film. From the beginning as Daniel physically assaults a Jewish male he sees on the subway, to raising to power in a Fascist organization in hope to being it to America.  While Daniel rises, his inner struggle between his people and his beliefs becomes harder and tougher to deal with. Will Daniel be able to live with his beliefs and his heritage? Will the Fascist organization rise to any power or will Daniel sympathize with his Jewish people?

I believe it is easy to say what makes this film great is the wonderful performance from Ryan Gosling. I find it not surprising at all that this film helped him get to the star power that he has today. It is incredible to see him dominate scenes and totally draw in the audience into this character. I was surprised how interested I became in Daniel and how much I cared about him. I shouldn’t because he is a Neo-Nazi and I am against everything that Nazism and Fascism stands for. Still I cared about his struggle to find his true self, to figure out who he truly is and that is what makes this movie work. Gosling is able to connect with us because everyone has had stuggles in life, especially ones dealing with discovering ourselves. While I may not support his Neo-Nazism, I cannot deny that Daniel obviously dealt with a real dilemma between what he was born into and what he chose to believe.

This was the best part of the film in my opinion as I loved following Daniel’s struggle and watching Gosling give a powerful performance. As with most of Gosling’s performances, it is the subtle looks and shots that Gosling shines in. The powerful and deep looks in his eyes and the physically pain we see him go through is a marvel to watch and it is what really made this film special in my opinion. It feels real and the story comes to life all thanks to Gosling. What also makes this movie interesting is that it is based off of a true story, based on Daniel Burros.

Luckily the movie surrounds Balint and is the focus throughout, this focus makes the movie work because other than Gosling’s performance this movie doesn’t stand out as a classic or anything. There is some great shots in here but most are thanks to Gosling’s performance and the cinematography was a negative for me.  No one else in the cast stands out but thankfully the story and themes are able to help Gosling out. Now I do admit for me, and some, it is hard to get over the fact that he is a Neo-Nazi but understand that Daniel is dealing with some tough roads in his journey to self realization. Plus American History X is one of my all time favorite movies and Norton plays a rougher version of Daniel, so if you enjoyed that you should enjoy this.

Overall if you are a fan of Gosling I would definitely check out The Believer. It is by no means a masterpiece but the themes of struggle, race, religion, and fascism are great and hold up the film. The ending is going to be very interesting to all as it is very ambiguous and up for debate. I enjoyed it but it is nothing that I want to return to. I still enjoyed Gosling’s performance and the story though.

Hello! I am William McAbee. I do my fair share of reviews from time to time and I tweet like there is no tomorrow! I work currently as a video editor and producer.

Just For You