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dir Jorge Dorado
scr Guy Holmes
prd Jaume Collet-Serra, Peter Safran, Juan Sola, Mercedes Gamero
with Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga, Brian Cox, Saskia Reeves, Richard Dillane, Indira Varma, Noah Taylor, Alberto Ammann, Jessica Barden, Frida Palsson, Clare Calbraith, Rod Hallett
release Sp 24.Jan.14, US 6.Jun.14,
Can you help me? Farmiga and Strong
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
With its Inception-style plot about detectives who can enter another person's memories, this film immediately gets under the skin. The plot is a complex maze packed with creepy revelations and potential red herrings that don't add up to a lot but hold our attention all the way through.
When a horrific old memory intrudes on his consciousness, the psychic John (Strong) loses his job with Mindscape, the world's top memory detective agency, which helps solve crimes and cold cases. Months later, his boss Sebastian (Cox) thinks John may be ready to return to his job and assigns him to work with 16-year-old Anna (Farmiga), who's worrying her mother and stepfather (Reeves and Dillane) by refusing to eat. So John starts looking for something in Anna's past that will help with her therapy. But Anna's an unusually smart and troubled girl.
The film's opening is like a standard horror movie prologue, setting the insinuating tone for what's to come. And it's instantly intriguing, effectively freaking us out as filmmaker Dorado playfully uses genre cliches (red roses and running water everywhere) to give us a nagging sense that we've seen this film before, and we're only remembering it now. This sense of deja vu makes the movie feel predictable even as it twists in unexpected ways. And individual scenes bristle with tension, growing into nightmarish nastiness that may or may not be real.
Strong is very good as a man haunted by his own past even as he delves into other people's minds. Farmiga plays Anna as a dark horse who will surely mess with John's memories of his dead wife, also named Anna (Palsson in flashbacks). And of course it helps to have shifty, tricky actors like Cox, Taylor (as a memory-trawling colleague), Reeves and Dillane on board to keep us guessing.
Set up as a standard American horror movie, Dorado shot primarily in Spain, bringing his own artistry to make the most of colour and shadows while catching offbeat details in the actors' faces. Even the film's horror beats are played in ways that draw us in, never quite giving us what we expect. A bit gimmicky and ultimately rushed, the movie is also enjoyably unnerving. And an eerie reminder that memory can't always be trusted, but it's all we have.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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