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Review: First Reformed

Critic Peter Rainer panned "Bringing out the Dead" (1999) -- one of many Paul Schrader-scripted films about inner spiritual torment -- by observing that "Scorcese doesn't trust the power of simplicity to rock us."

In "First Reformed," heavily indebted to Robert Bresson's "Diary of a Country Priest," Schrader directs his own script with trust in the power of simplicity, and it's a knockout. For much of the film, the set is austere, the performances restrained, and the camera undistracted. The script is not playing games and does not veer from the elephant in all our rooms: the doomed future of the planet, and humankind's failure to face it honestly.

In long, still shots, we endure the quietly powerful performance of Ethan Hawke's existential-crisis suffering pastor and the captivating courage-to-be of Amanda Seyfried's expectant mother, who Hawke's Reverent Toller is attempting to counsel, even as he falls apart.  The…

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