I’ve been seeing hype for this film for some time, all around bringing Jennifer Aniston back to the big screen in a surprising role and being teamed up with Clive Owen. The trailer promised chasing and running filled with sexual tension and perhaps even some naughtiness, yet without spoiling anything the trailer is all part of the misdirection, and very good misdirection it is too.
Thanks again to the Ocean Terminal Vue Cinema for letting me see this, and enjoy a great double-billed Saturday down at the waterfront.
First off I have to say that I do think Owen is a good actor, but there are times (particularly during the attempt at American accents and style) that he’s not that great, in fact pretty poor. I thought this of his cardboard cheese laden role in Sin City, and to a similar degree I think it here. His accent laps back and forth from English, and unless there’s a big emotional scene to play he seems stilted and cold. Not his best role.
What was instantly surprising for me was Aniston. Let’s face it you’ll have found it incredibly hard to disassociate any of the Friends actors from their TV roles, I know I have, and the recent talk of a set of reunion shows to test the public feelings has been responded to extremely favourably. Let me say this now in the vain hope that Ms Aniston is reading this, don’t do it. With this movie Aniston killed all connection with whatever her characters name was in Friends. She is now dead, and the time to continue the Hollywood career is now, don’t get greedy, get some good scripts and keep going.
She was believeable and gave a very real performance, particularly on her dialogue. She acted on a par with the superb Vincent Cassel, giving a strong and emotionally charged performance that at times actually got to me. The fascination with her previous acting association was gone within minutes of onscreen time.
Cassel was superb. I really picked up on his performance in The Crimson Rivers (a DVD awaiting review because the poor rental company I chose first time round won’t send it out in sequence) alongside Jean Reno. He captured my eye in that movie and since then I’ve added a number of his films to my list of must see. His performance is measured madness, proving to be totally ruthless, without morals or compassion for any of his victims. During some of the stronger scenes, particularly the attack on the couple, he leads the scene through some extremely uncomfortable and unnerving moments.
The plot is really good considering the wealth of purile and ill conceived movies that we’re being fed of late. The Writers, Director and Editors do a fantastic job of building tension and suspense for key moments, and pivoting the story round on its head time and time again. They’ve also managed to build that uncomfortable sense through some of these scenes, and that just helps to unnerve the audience and put them on edge for the rest of the film.
There are some really good set-ups in the film, some great surprises. You really do feel as though you’ve been toyed and manipulated with after you’ve watched the movie, and that key scenes were created around this very reason.
These key scenes are the ones that continually build the tension through the movie, and at a good pace too. There’s not a feeling of payoff too early or too late, although the endings feel somewhat contrived and there is a wonder of just how some events came to be. That is pushed to the side though as you are pulled along with the scenes, and in the end it does turn into a satisfying and somewhat unusual conclusion for Hollywood.
Something else the creatives deserve a mention for is the way that they create the family setting so quickly in the movie. You understand the relationships between the family members very quickly and they are created so strongly and so convincingly that they prevade through the movie making many of the decisions by the Father understandable and real, and many not so.
Let’s put to the side the total gullability of the Father for a moment, I mean once he’s had how everything works explained to him, that same character begins the process all over again, but does he understand, does he react? No. He continues on blindly, confused and oblivious. Okay, there may be some truth in that reaction, but coupled with some other poor decisions it does begin to stand out a little.
For instance, he seems to give up on his family far too easily, or so it seems. Due to a poor onscreen explanation it appears that he gives up on his daughter at the first hurdle, yet later on you realise he hadn’t. Without going into the specifics of the plot, his actions make it look as though he’s incredibly weak and this is reversed a little while later, and it’s not a plot device. It’s not there to make you think he’s weak and then show he’s strong, you can see there’s a mistake on the film makers part to make people understand what’s happening in that scene.
One other moment that really didn’t fit for me is how the character decides on retribution after everything is over. I just couldn’t fathom that one. Considering he has been given so much to deal with and is now shown a clear and practical way out, he doesn’t take it, yet this is the path he’s been attempting to take throughout the movie.
Okay, let me breathe out the bad air and think about the movie as a whole. It’s good, and it’s great entertainment. Suspend your disbelief and doubting mind and go with the plot, it’s a lot of fun and is a good thriller with twists and turns that actually get you. There are so many thrillers nowadays that just don’t do that, they follow the well trodden path that we all expect to see. I can’t ignore some of the bad points though, and combined they did pull this movie back from a higher score.
Still, it’s a good film to see if there’s nothing else higher rated on that weekend. Perhaps a nice Directors Cut will give us some of the meat that will fill out the problem scenes for me. In the meantime why don’t you go and see what you think.