WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A wealthy businessman (Redford) is kidnapped one morning by a strange man (Dafoe) who walks him through a forest to deliver him to his bosses. As his family tightens in on itself while putting together the ransom, he reflects back on his life, trying to understand why this is all happening to him.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
This wonderfully acted and original story was a definite pleasure to watch from top to bottom despite a few too many loops back and forth in the real-time/flashback approach it takes. These two words have become somewhat clichéd when discussing thrillers but to use an immortal quote of every single movie critic ever to like a thriller, it’s “taut” and “tense” unlike most other thrillers who claim to grab you by the nuts and not let go until the credits are rolling, and this one actually does it. What’s interesting is that it does so without the cheap thrills of cats jumping out of dark alleys and without the overused “big twist” at the end. You won’t hear this one claim it’s “more shocking than (the hugely overrated) The Sixth Sense” or any thing like that. It grabs you because it gets you to actually feel for the characters and to wonder what you’d do in their situation. It grabs you because even the man perpetrating the crime seems conflicted and hopeless and because he acts out a desperate scheme to get out of a mess he sees no other escape from while reminding us of the sleepless nights we’ve all spent pondering problems and trying to swat the easy way out from our thoughts. In short, THE CLEARING is what a movie is supposed to be when it intends to make you feel a story rather than just watch it unfold.
For a first directing effort, Pieter Jan Brugge hit a homerun flanked by screen icon Robert Redford and by Willem Dafoe and Helen Mirren , all of whom fit perfectly in their surroundings and gave subdued performances that allowed to movie to take over rather than their own celebrity but then again, that’s usually what happens when you cast actors with actual talent and it’s also what makes it quite frustrating that a film of this type would get so little talk while shit starring J-Lo breaks the box office bank. THE CLEARING is a short movie at barely over a buck and a half but it makes an impression that lasts much longer. It also has a lot of beautiful camera work by Cinematographer Denis Lenoir in it. The warm greens of the forest contrast perfectly with the cold crime that’s taking place in it while the cool pastels of Redford’s family home belies the love and admiration all feel for their husband and father. If you’re interested in catching a good movie with some great actors doing their work, make sure you get your hands on this one.
There's really not much to speak of here other than a set of six deleted scenes which are pretty nice but don't add much dimension to the movie other than to give a couple of speaking lines to one of the federal agents investigating the kidnapping who otherwise doesn't really have any. There's a commentary track by director Pieter Jan Brugge, Screenwriter Justin Haythe and Film Editor Kevin Tent. It's fairly interesting and pretty standard although very low key. You can also read the screenplay and catch the theatrical trailer.
THE CLEARING is a really nice movie both in its looks and in the performances offered up. Definitely worth a look although be warned that it moves fairly slowly and may turn some off with the constant moves back and forth in time. If you can keep on top of all that, then you'll likely be more than likely to really enjoy the story and the actors playing it out.