Rating: The Good – 67.7 Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller Duration: 118 mins Director: Gregory Hoblit Stars: Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Shawn Doyle
A pulsating and smart sci-fi thriller infused with unabashed sentiment, Frequency is a movie that ultimately shouldn’t work but does. A troubled homicide detective (Jim Caviezel) accidentally comes in contact with his father (Dennis Quaid) 30 years in the past, just in time to warn him of his impending death. When the father heeds his warnings, the time line begins to change with unexpected consequences and the father and son find themselves tracking down a serial killer in a desperate effort to protect their wife/mother. Given that the central time travelling device here is a ham radio in an electrical storm and that most of the thrills come from the cross-time conversations between the father and son, this script must have been a dilly of pickle to sell. Nonetheless, Gregory Hoblit’s typically polished direction and his quality cast pull it off. Quaid was always a dab hand at playing the heroic everyman and if Caviezel is less familiar in such roles, you’d never know it. And even though they share different ends to a radio frequency there’s lots of chemistry to enjoy too. The real hook here, however, is the plot which works as all good mysteries do, by keeping the audience guessing and their pulses racing. But what truly separates Frequency from the slew of science fiction thrillers is its unapologetic pandering to that audience’s desires, something often considered a compromise from an artistic point of view. Fairytale like resolutions are not necessarily to be avoided, though, and in an age when even Hollywood blockbusters offer up token sacrifices, it might even be a welcomed once-off treat.
Rating: The Good – 73.4 Genre: Thriller Duration: 129 mins Director: Gregory Hoblit Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Edward Norton
An urbane legal thriller starring Richard Gere as a big shot attorney defending a naive and seemingly gentle young man who is on trial for the murder of an archbishop. As the plot is slowly excavated, he and his team begin to suspect their client may be suffering from multiple personality disorder and the real murderer is buried in his psyche.
Its irrelevant and generic shelf-title aside, Primal Fear is a layered and nimble thriller with just enough sprinkles of political, social, and romantic drama to enrich the tapestry of the central murder trial. Gregory Hoblit’s usual sophistication makes the thing very watchable as his eye for composition combined with his overall discipline and sense of balance, ensures the visual tones never intrude on the plot. Instead they perfectly complement it by sitting in the background and allowing the engrossing characters and story to at all times occupy centre stage.
The shining cast adds an additional touch of elegance as Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, and John Mahoney give us one well rounded character after another. Norton in particular created one of cinema’s more memorable defendants and he’s liable to blow your socks off if you’ve managed to remain oblivious to this movie and the direction it takes. Of course, as always, Gere is a proper lead and he owns the movie even if Norton is responsible for the more agile acting.
Beneath the movie’s sheen, the movie looks less sure footed. There’s some loose construction of the story especially early on as Hoblit and his editors place one or two of scenes out of sequence. And while the weaving of the different subplots starts out promising and proceeds in accomplished fashion, their connections become less focal as the story moves past them. Inevitably, a degree of tension is spilt when this occurs. Linney is, as always, a tremendous addition to the proceedings but an unfortunate regression of her character from strong female attorney to helpless victim of her clever male opponents, (one using charm, the other force) negates much of what made the script so promising to begin with. If Gere’s brash yet somewhat conflicted legal maestro has the tables turned on him late on, it feels less like an attempt to parallel it with her degradation and more like a rather unadventurous examination of ego. In the end, it matters little for the film aims primarily to be just a cracking good thriller with strong shades of class throughout. And that some are lighter than others doesn’t do too much damage.
Rating: The Good -69.5 Genre: Thriller Duration: 113mins Director: Gregory Hoblit Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn
An unconventional thriller starring Ryan Gosling as a brash young prosecutor whose last case before he changes sides becomes more than he bargained for when the defendant, a highly intelligent engineer (Anthony Hopkins) accused of attempting to kill his wife, begins dismantling Gosling’s case. Gosling’s fresh approach to his role makes for an interesting film in its own right but it’s the unpredictability of the story’s progression that raises it above more orthodox thrillers. Hopkins is only fine as the clever bad guy but like David Strathairn he’s not given much to do. There is a seriously unconvincing romantic relationship crow-barred into the story between Gosling’s character and his new boss (no doubt to appease the inane box-ticking movie executives) but thanks to the aforementioned qualities and Hoblit’s typically polished touch, Fracture is certainly worth the watch.
“I can’t seem to get my mind around this.” In those words lie the standout strength of this film. Denzel Washington plays a high-flying cop John Hobbes, who has just sent a notorious serial killer named Edgar Reese (played with typical gusto by Elias Koteas) to the gas chamber. However, immediately afterwards, he and his partner (played by John Goodman) uncover a series of bizarre murders each of which leave cryptic clues that not only tie them to Reese but do so in ways that defy all natural explanations.
This is as intelligent a supernatural thriller as you could hope for and proof that the most chilling cinema comes from those films which crawl around inside your head. While most horror films treat the moment when a lead character comes to believe that supernatural forces are at play as an incidental feature of the story (“Oh so it’s a demon then”), Fallen stretches that moment out across the film and therefore explores the progression from not believing to believing in a slower and seemingly realer sense. The result is a far more mature and enthralling experience than most movies of that genre offer. Nick Kazan’s dialogue is utterly superb and more than anything else, it sets the tone and tension of the film. And when spoken by heavyweights such Washington (who is particularly good in this film), Goodman, Koteas, James Gandolfini, and Donald Sutherland, it’s given a whole other level of resonance.
If Fallen has one flaw it’s the recurring use of the demon’s perspective which if omitted could’ve allowed the film to take on an even more sinister “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” vibe. That said Fallen is its own film with its own look and sound and for the most part, it hits all the right buttons.