Warrior the 2011 drama set a niche for itself without falling into the tempting trap of a tried and tested formula which, believe me, has a lot of siphoning power. You get sucked into it without even realizing that you are entering an unforgiving loop that annihilates creativity.
It has been directed by Gavin O’Connor, who together with Cliff Dorfman wrote the screenplay of the same. A lot of credit has to be given to the duo to realize their aim and follow a path with almost blinders on. They created something that set very strong precedence and something which would be talked about every time this fight/drama genre would be explored. It would be hard to surpass the benchmarks set.
As much as we want the film to be about MMA or boxing, it’s not that exactly. Yes the fighting and action knits the whole narrative together but the essence of the film is not only about it, no matter how significant part it plays in the lives of the characters.
Tom Hardy plays Tom Conlon, who was forced to move with his mother to another town, due to an alcoholic father. The elder brother, Brendon (Joel Edgerton) chooses to not come with them and stays to marry his partner Tess (Jennifer Morrison) and start a family with her. As much animosity is there inside Tom pertaining to his father, he also has bitter feelings for Brendon. Tom always believed that his elder brother abandoned him when he needed him the most. Brendon on the other hand was on the brim of adulthood and his love for Tess overpowered everything else. He saw his sustainable future with her.
Tom joins the marines and Brendon becomes a physics teacher. But fate had decided something completely different for the brothers.
Tom becomes a war hero for some and a traitor for others. He abandons his troop and without telling anyone makes his way back home. But on the way, he finds a few of his comrades stuck in a life-or-death situation and saves them. The answer to the question of whether Tom was a loyalist or Judas under the skin of a patriot depended upon the perception of those few standing on the front line. Tom’s colleague, whom he called his brother, died on the battlefield with several others, but Tom survived. He had promised his colleagues’ wife, Pilar Fernandes, to provide her with everything he could.
Brendon on the other hand has his set of hurdles. He isn’t able to pay the mortgage of his house and the bank threatened to confiscate his property. He had put it on the mortgage to pay for the surgery of his ailing daughter. What both brothers have in common is the hatred they have for their alcoholic father, whom they blame for spoiling their childhood.
An MMA event is announced with a cash prize of five million dollars and both Tom and Brendon see it as an opportunity to overcome their struggles. What they didn’t know was that they would themselves become the final obstruction in each other’s way.
What made Warrior Different?
So how do you not draw any inspiration from the great films of the same genre that have left their imprints on the sands of time? Whenever you are choreographing a scene or writing the dialogues, your memory puts you back in a world created once by John Davidson and Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky series. And there are numerous examples present of the same cadre. Whatever you plan on doing, it has already been done.
This is where your innovativeness and hold over the craft come into the picture. Apart from this your drive to create something that is unique in your own self also plays a key role. Warrior would have been a success commercially even if ideas and nuances would have been taken from the previous films. The filmmaker could have chosen to take an existing foundation and built around that. It would have been more convenient.
But convenience does not create a monument of wonder. I agree the inspirations can be there because there is no such word that can be called totally original. But the way you adapt it and make it resonate with yourself is what matters. Warrior does the same. The focus is not on the fight rather it’s on a broken family and the strings that still bind them. It’s about an alcoholic father who realizes what he has lost and how he can never get back those times. It’s about an elder brother who bears the guilt of abandoning his brother to merely live with the love of his life. It is also about a naive youth who had to leave home and bear the responsibility of looking after a terminally ill mother and finally burying her all alone with the hands that were too young to do so.
Even during the fights these emotions prevail giving us a sense of originality.
Warrior makes sure to let its audience know that boxing and MMA are a part of the lives of the characters. But their life encumbers pastures far greater than the area of a boxing ring. It’s not Rocky and neither does it pretend to be any other thing. It’s about something that matters the most. It’s about breathing life into the bonds that turned foul and bitter over a period of time. It’s about being able to finally shed and tear and get rid of the burden.