Warrior - co-written and directed by Gavin O’Connor. Starring Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy. My favorite film of 2011, Warrior is first and foremost a story about family. Paddy Conlon (Nolte) is a recovering alcoholic with two estranged sons: Brendan (Edgerton), a high school Physics teacher struggling to make ends meet for his wife and two daughters, and Tommy (Hardy), who joined the marines shortly after his mother died.
Although the poster emphasizes the fighting aspect of the film, at the end of the day this is a story about redemption. Paddy is trying to make up for being a drunk and a horrible father to both Tommy and Brendan. Brendan is struggling to overcome his resentment for his father and the abandonment he felt after Tommy and his mother left. Tommy is haunted by the past, which includes deserting his marine unit and having to bury his mother by himself. The mixed martial arts (MMA) tournament serves as a place for this family to face all their demons together and lay all their cards on the table.
The performances in this film were absolutely breathtaking. Edgerton and Hardy are two phenomenally underrated actors who hold their own against the impressive Nolte, who absolutely blew me away in this film. There’s an authenticity to this film, whether it be when dealing with the family issues or with regards to MMA, that isn’t trite or maudlin. As someone who hasn’t been exposed to a lot of MMA at all, I even found myself enthralled by the fight sequences. What I loved most about the film is that it doesn’t ask you to choose sides or force you to empathize with one of the brothers. Both men are equally sympathetic with moving back stories. The film does a remarkable job in getting viewers to root for both brothers, even though there is some rivalry there.
I have seen so many comparisons to The Fighter, which is understandable considering the story is about two brothers who are vying to win the same mixed martial arts tournament but for entirely different reasons. However, Warrior has much more of an emotional vise grip than The Fighter had, with much more compelling characters and performances. The film also does an excellent job balancing drama with the adrenaline rush of MMA. It’s a moving film that captures your interest and attention from the title sequence to the end credits. With such strong, academy award-worthy performances, I’m surprised this film isn’t nominated for more accolades. Definitely go see this movie if you haven’t yet.