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)