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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir John Maybury|
scr Massy Tadjedin
with Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kris Kristofferson, Daniel Craig, Kelly Lynch, Brad Renfro, Fish, Steven Mackintosh, Mackenzie Phillips, Laura Marano, Jason Lewis
release US 4.Mar.05, UK 13.May.05
05/US Warner 1h42
A little hope: Knightley and Brody
It took Maybury seven years to follow up his astute Francis Bacon biopic Love Is the Devil with this equally difficult and artful drama that weaves in wartime themes with time travel. It doesn't really hold together on a logical level, but it's fascinating and powerfully emotional.
Jack Starks (Brody) nearly dies in battle during Gulf War I, and when he gets home suffers from recurring amnesia. A roadside encounter with mother and daughter Jean and Jackie (Lynch and Marano) and a violent stranger (Renfro) leaves him charged with murder and locked up in a mental hospital, where a doctor (Kristofferson) performs a "progressive" treatment that involves shooting him with drugs, putting him in a straitjacket and locking him in a morgue drawer. While in there, he travels 15 years into the future and meets the now-grown Jackie (Knightley).
Time travel movies always present anomalous problems, and this film is no exception. The more we examine the plot the more it falls to pieces (unless we interpret it as a mental delusion). But Maybury films it from a starkly subjective angle, getting into Jack's head to examine much larger issues. This is a film about doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons, and its characters are all morally challenged. The acting is extremely strong, especially from Brody as a man whose internal suffering drives him to extreme actions as he tries to rationalise his own impending death. Craig shines as a sharp-eyed fellow patient in the film's Cuckoo's Nest scenes; Leigh is brilliantly controlled and edgy as a doctor facing a complex dilemma; and Knightley shows real acting chops for the first time as the trailer-trash Jackie.
Maybury's direction is inventive and revelatory, while the editing and effects add an unsettling atmosphere, washing out the colours and basically leaving only red and blue. It's always Christmas in this movie, and the symbolism throughout the story is cleverly entwined, while the message is subtle but strong. Where it falters is in the rather fragmented, gaffe-filled plot. But if you don't let these things get to you, the film is involving, creepy and surprisingly hopeful.
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