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dir-scr Rodrigo Cortes
prd Rodrigo Cortes, Adrian Guerra
with Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones, Joely Richardson, Craig Roberts, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Adriane Lenox, Garrick Hagon, Burn Gorman, Mitchell Mullen
release Sp 2.Mar.12, UK 15.Jun.12,
Something wicked this way comes: Weaver and Murphy
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Spanish filmmaker Cortes clearly thinks of himself as a Christopher Nolan-style filmmaker, as this thriller has heavy echoes of Inception and especially The Prestige. But the film drifts into self-parody just when it needs to take an intelligent twist.
Tom (Murphy) is a physicist who works with psychologist Margaret (Weaver) to expose fake psychics. They don't believe that the supernatural exists, much to the annoyance of psychic studies proferssor Paul (Jones). Assisted by students Sally and Ben (Olsen and Roberts), Tom and Margaret debunk noted mentalist Palladino (Sbaraglia) by looking for "red lights", anything that seems suspicious. But when Margaret's old nemesis Simon (De Niro) makes a comeback, she backs down from going after the famed blind showman. And Tom's secret investigation takes some bizarre turns.
Cortes directs with a sure hand, using skilful camerawork and astute editing as well as a heavy-handed sound mix that over-eggs every creep-out with deafening noise. But the anonymous American city setting (it was shot in Barcelona) echoes Nolan's similarly disarming approach, as do the hallways, warehouses and theatres where everything happens. On top of this there's the gimmick of a Ghostbusters cast member, plus a surreal sequence that's like an outtake from Twin Peaks.
The problem is that none of this gels into anything meaningful because Cortes refuses to ground anything in the real world. The over-serious drama is so heightened that we can't believe it, which undermines effective sequences like a genuinely unsettling car-chase. And when events spiral into violence, it simply doesn't ring true, as if scenes were inserted in an attempt to satisfy blood-thirsty audiences who don't care about narrative nuance. So the story isn't nearly as mind-bending as Cortes wants it to be.
Even so, it's thoroughly watchable, thanks to strong actors who create intriguing characters even when they're practically sleepwalking. Weaver gives Margaret a terrific dose of cynicism that's much more interesting than Tom's hot-headed rage. And De Niro underplays his blind man of mystery so that he almost seems to be a ghost. But this means that when he does come out of his shell, it's more than faintly ridiculous. Which kind of describes the overwrought final act as well.
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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