Film audiences are still buzzing about all the great movies that came out around Thanksgiving, as well as the anticipated release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug next week. With so many blockbusters coming out during this hectic season, it’s easy to forget some of the terrific sleepers that fly under our radar. One such movie, Out of the Furnace, received a limited release earlier this week and is now enthralling audiences all over the country.

Out of the Furnace tells the story of Russell Baze (Christian Bale), a man in a struggling rural town who is unfortunately thrown into jail. When he gets out, he finds that his younger brother, Rodney (Casey Affleck), became a fighter for a vicious local criminal, Curtis (Woody Harrelson), in order to try and escape to a better city. When Rodney refuses to take a dive for Curtis, the villain takes it out on the young fighter. When Russell is released from jail and finds out what happened, he’ll have to decide whether to cherish his freedom and little life he has left, or to make Curtis pay for what he’s done.

The film also features acclaimed performances by Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard. The film showcases so many terrific actors, that even if the script were slapped together by monkeys it would still be worth a watch. In truth, the film was carefully crafted by writer/director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), based on his personal experiences. Cooper grew up in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains; an area similar to the town featured in Out of the Furnace. A lot of his films feature old industrial towns like this one, and the writer has a knack for authentically portraying the people that inhabit them. But his familiarity with the cinematic town of Braddock, and its residents, goes far deeper.

Cooper was first inspired after reading about the town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a waning steel town that was trying to be saved by its mayor. Cooper combined the storyline of the script with his experiences in Braddock, going as far as to film some scenes in the town and help keep it alive.  The themes of the film reflect serious issues that rural towns across the Midwest face everyday. When the place you were born was once prosperous, but now offers few opportunities to even escape, what do you do? Move away from everything you’ve known and that’s shaped you, or turn to crime just to get by? When a hard life has left you with barely a leg to stand on, do you do everything to better your situation, or fight to the death for family honor?

You can see how Russell Baze tackles these dilemmas, and others, by finding showtimes and tickets for Out of the Furnace here.