Brimstone is the archaic word for sulfur. However, it also means destruction or punishment inside of the Bible:
Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens.
Brimstone is a dark western written and directed by Martin Koolhoven, starring Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Emilia Jones, Carice van Houten and Kit Harrington. Even though the cast is mostly English-speaking, the production is mainly Dutch.
The story is told in four distinct chapter, with the first three told in reverse order. This narrative is immediately intriguing, managing to throw at you twists and turns that are more or less predictable. The center of the story is Liz (Dakota Fanning), a woman endlessly chased by an evil reverend (Guy Pearce).
Religion is key in this movie, and while something like Silence showed the struggles of sticking to your faith, Brimstone goes the opposite way: men of faith are supposed to be shepherds for the unwise populace by showing them how to live a righteous life, while they are vile (almost demonic) men of violence who rework the words of the Bible to their liking.
Another important and controversial theme is the role of women: even though they are beaten, exploited and violated, the strongest manage to always take control of their lives, even if that means going to extreme ends. Many have considered the story to be misogynistic, but I found it to be a wake-up call to women everywhere: take control of your life, and don’t let evil man abuse you.
The movie might be bleak, but its cinematography is stunning: Rogier Stoffers masterfully uses panoramic shots to set the action, and close-ups to show the raw emotions of the characters. There are also plenty of visual metaphors that tie into the religious themes. The editing could have used some trimming in a couple of scenes, and some actions performed by the characters feel too repetitive.
Tom Holkenborg (a.k.a. Junkie XL) composes a soundtrack that is at times quiet, at times eerie, but is never misplaced. Sets and costumes are detailed, with colors of clothing playing into the moral of the characters.
Overall, Brimstone is a western filled to the brim with gritty violence, religious themes, and female empowerment. Not for everyone, those who feel brave enough to tackle this 148 minute epic are going to have plenty of content to chew on, even if some of it is quite bitter.
Visual Effects: 8.5
Violence & Gore: 9
Sex & Nudity: 8
Drugs & Profanity: 6
Intensity & Horror: 7