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Review: The Tall Man

The Tall Man
08.27.2012
4 10

PLOT: The town of Cold Rock, USA is losing its children: at least once every two months, a child is abducted, events blamed on a shadowy figure called “The Tall Man.” Who is this person, and what is he doing with his victims?

REVIEW: It's hard not to be reminded of Pascal Laugier's last film, the brutal horror number MARTYRS, while watching his latest, THE TALL MAN. Not that they're similar in style; the former is a torture show, one of the most infamous offerings of the genre in many years, while the latter is timid in comparison, a dramatic mystery with but a few ounces of blood on display. Yet, in both films, Laugier serves up one type of film in the first half, only to pull the rug out and reveal that we're in quite a different movie altogether. I didn't like it in MARTYRS (which is wildly overrated in my personal opinion) and I don't like it here, but I will give Laugier points for pure showmanship. He most certainly isn't content to tell a story in a conventional way.

We're introduced to the town of Cold Rock, a Northwestern mining town whose residents live in poverty, depression and fear. The fear is born out of an epidemic of kidnappings, apparently perpetrated by a hooded menace called The Tall Man, the sort of mythical character dreamed up by scared people in lieu of any rational explanation. Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) works at Cold Rock's free clinic, and while she herself is dubious about the existence of any such phantom, she's sympathetic to the people whose lives are destroyed by the abductions. Julia possesses a strong maternal instinct, having a son (Jakob Davies) of her own, as well as a troubled local teenager from a bad family (Jodelle Ferland) that she bestows affection to. Her life as a single mother is simple, plain and ordinary, and she's relatively happy.

That happiness is shattered when The Tall Man comes calling; he visits Julia's house and takes her son – and it's at this point where I can't continue to describe the plot, because the film soon twists in a drastically different direction. Said direction will squash the lingering hopes of horror fans looking for a horror movie, because it turns out that's not what this is at all.

Laugier's film is brave, for it attempts to tell an important and earnest moral drama yet wraps it in the cloak of a dark-and-stormy-night chiller. The director enjoys toying with our expectations, layering twist after twist in the second half of THE TALL MAN and consistently challenging our idea of what's going on. It can legitimately be said, after it's over, that you couldn't see what was coming at any given moment.

And while I have no doubt that sounds appealing, it's sad to report that all of Laugier's contortions are in service of a story we stop caring about once it revs up the twist-machine. The structure of the movie is completely askew; the big twist is only really satisfying if it comes at the end of a story, not the middle, and when there are more big twists to follow, the movie's momentum is shattered and everything feels like anti-climax. I counted at least three different times when I thought for sure the picture was over, and each time it just kept on going. It's never a good thing when a movie “just keeps going,” and it doesn't matter if there are further convolutions in the plot. Once you've checked out, you've checked out, and I checked out of THE TALL MAN a handful of times.

On the positive, Jessica Biel is quite impressive in a dramatic role, one that requires us to constantly redefine what we think of her character. Her movie star glamor dressed down, but not overtly so, she's believably conflicted and broken by the emotionally exasperating circumstances that keep hurling themselves upon her. The actress also serves as an executive producer on the film, which on the surface is very odd – why would Jessica Biel produce a low-brow thriller like this? - but becomes clearer once the film's secrets are unveiled. There is a message that she and her writer/director want to impart, one about parental responsibility and child protection, but it's muted and abused by the film's muddy storytelling and botched handling of its multiple revelations. I can't exactly fault THE TALL MAN for trying something different, but I can't deny that, about halfway through, I wanted to be abducted and taken to a more competent film.

Extra Tidbit: THE TALL MAN opens theatrically on AUGUST 31st; it is currently available On Demand.
Source: JoBlo.com

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3:46AM on 02/13/2013
Gone Baby Gone via Horror
Gone Baby Gone via Horror
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6:45PM on 09/16/2012

Disagree

I just finished watching it and I have to say that I almost completely disagree with this review. I did not see the twists coming and I really liked the fact that the movie had something to say and a point to make, instead of being just another thriller or a mystery. Granted, once the final twist is revealed, the movie kinda slows down and a few minutes could have been shaved off to make it a bit more streamlined, but still, I didn't think it was nowhere as bad as the reviewer makes it out to
I just finished watching it and I have to say that I almost completely disagree with this review. I did not see the twists coming and I really liked the fact that the movie had something to say and a point to make, instead of being just another thriller or a mystery. Granted, once the final twist is revealed, the movie kinda slows down and a few minutes could have been shaved off to make it a bit more streamlined, but still, I didn't think it was nowhere as bad as the reviewer makes it out to be. A very pleasant surprise.
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3:07PM on 08/30/2012

Shoulda...

Just went the Horror route, instead of this social commentary nonsense.
Just went the Horror route, instead of this social commentary nonsense.
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5:25PM on 08/27/2012

I want to support this

I get that Biel wants to be seen as more than a pretty face, but is being honest about her prospects in Hollywood, so she's trying to own her level of marketability and genre-acceptableness. Still, this looks like cheapo garbage.
I get that Biel wants to be seen as more than a pretty face, but is being honest about her prospects in Hollywood, so she's trying to own her level of marketability and genre-acceptableness. Still, this looks like cheapo garbage.
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3:16PM on 08/27/2012

:)

Although there are pacing problems, I was very pleasantly surprised. The path the story took is very risky on a number of levels, and I am overjoyed that a Hollywood production would tackle them in this way. I will take a flawed, boundary-pushing piece of filmmaking over a polished, safe cookie-cutter flick any day. And this is the best I've seen Jessica Biel in anything. She knocks it out.
Although there are pacing problems, I was very pleasantly surprised. The path the story took is very risky on a number of levels, and I am overjoyed that a Hollywood production would tackle them in this way. I will take a flawed, boundary-pushing piece of filmmaking over a polished, safe cookie-cutter flick any day. And this is the best I've seen Jessica Biel in anything. She knocks it out.
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-6
2:27PM on 08/27/2012

i dont think people like her is all

I have never heard a person say they thought she was a good actress. She tries to play these "tough" ladies but she is quite awful at that (almost ruined a-team), leave that for michelle rodriguez. she is alos a terrible serious actress and a OK comedy one, so maybe she should stick to those, true beauty shines from with in, not from with out.
I have never heard a person say they thought she was a good actress. She tries to play these "tough" ladies but she is quite awful at that (almost ruined a-team), leave that for michelle rodriguez. she is alos a terrible serious actress and a OK comedy one, so maybe she should stick to those, true beauty shines from with in, not from with out.
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-3
1:44PM on 08/27/2012

a disappointment

not horrible, but not very good. Some cool ideas though, just not very well thought out/executed. I gave it a 4 as well.

Here's my take: [link]
not horrible, but not very good. Some cool ideas though, just not very well thought out/executed. I gave it a 4 as well.

Here's my take: [link]
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1:14PM on 08/27/2012
I really enjoyed this flick. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about it apart from its very basic storyline and enjoyed it completely. Note, it's not a horror film. Go in with an opened, mind and you might like the direction it takes you.
I really enjoyed this flick. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about it apart from its very basic storyline and enjoyed it completely. Note, it's not a horror film. Go in with an opened, mind and you might like the direction it takes you.
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12:42PM on 08/27/2012
I have read really good reviews and very bad ones. I guess you either love it or hate it.
The Arrow liked it, I will still check it out with an open mind.
I have read really good reviews and very bad ones. I guess you either love it or hate it.
The Arrow liked it, I will still check it out with an open mind.
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8:08AM on 08/27/2012

So this isn't a Phantasm spinoff?

Lame.
Lame.
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