Volume 11, Number 10
23 November 2004

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This Week

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Isn't it sad when A-list actors are wasted in movies they play in?   I definitely think it's a huge disappointment when quality actors accept cheap roles simply in order not to be forgotten. Recently I saw a movie from Pieter Jan Brudgge, who for this film sat in the director's chair for the first time. Does this name remind you of anything? Let’s say, "Heat," "Pelican Brief," or "The Insider"…Yeah. Jan Brudgge was the producer of those movies that we saw years ago. Now he is back with "The Clearing" after a five-year break. The leading roles are performed by Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, and Willem Dafoe.

So…What is this movie about? Well, in a broad sense, it's a rock-solid kidnapping thriller. I get the idea you might be thinking this could be another routine kidnapping thriller, right? Well, to be honest, "The Clearing" is neither an ordinary nor a unique movie. It's somewhere in the middle.

Synopsis: Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford) is a successful car-rental magnate. He is married to a lovely wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), and they have two children. They've struggled very hard to achieve their high standard of living. But one day Wayne finds a nervous man waiting for him, and everything takes an unexpected turn. This strange man is Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe), who at first seems to be merely a disgruntled customer. Instead, he approaches Wayne's car and kidnaps him. As Arnold forces Wayne to drive to a remote area in the Smoky Mountains, Eileen wonders where her husband could be. Initially, she believes Wayne has ditched her. However, her impression changes when the FBI enters the story.

Actually, there is a little bit more to the movie, but I don't want to give it away totally. In my opinion, the movie isn't perfect. But then, I never expected it to be, since it's one of the oldest stories in cinema history (as far as I know).  A man is kidnapped and taken to a foggy, remote place, where the audience is expected to focus solely on the characters. Meanwhile, his family waits at home and tries to figure out what's going on. But then something surprising happens and adds a twist to the plot.

Throughout this movie, there's a parallel perspective. The story in the woods runs parallel with the story at home. On the one hand, we have Eileen, who is stunned by her husband's disappearance and the presence of the FBI in her home investigating what happened to him. The FBI is willing to do anything to find Wayne even though there is no sense of urgency. On the other hand, we have the kidnapping story itself. Moreover, the way Wayne is forced to realize that he is not a paragon of virtue parallels the way Eileen discovers that Wayne is not the ideal husband. The movie unfolds as a melodrama, and the way it progresses reminds me of the film "In the Bedroom." First-time director Pieter Jan Brugge seems a little unsure of how to present the story. Is his aim to make an action-oriented film about a kidnapped man or an everyday drama about a family unraveling? This confusion results in the waste of an A-list actor. Nonetheless, strong acting performances and the non-linear progress of the story kind of rescue the whole film and keep it from being nothing more than an ordinary thriller. Have fun and stay cool!

FYI: "The Clearing" has been rated R (under 17 requires accompanying parent) for a few bursts of strong language.


Directing: 0.5/Acting: 1/Story: 0.5 /Editing: 0.5/Visuals: 0.5

Atilla Karakurum (IE/IV)


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