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The Clearing (2004)
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Review Date: July 05, 2004
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge
Writer: Justin Haythe
Producers: Pieter Jan Brugge, Jonah Smith, Palmer West
Actors:
Robert Redford
Willem Dafoe
Helen Mirren
Plot:
A really rich guy with a wife of many years is kidnapped by a strange man in his driveway one morning and taken into the woods for ransom. As he is forced through the forest at gunpoint by his abductor, his family back home is aided by the FBI in their negotiations for his return. The elements of both storylines make up this movie.
Critique:
A very good character drama with thriller elements that ultimately fulfilled me with solid acting performances, an even pace, a terrific premise with touches of mystery and an ending that I quite liked. Nobody should go into this picture expecting your typical "thriller" though, since that's not really what it is. Sure, the film starts off with a kidnapping, but for the most part, it's the human drama and relations that hold it all together, as each character has to deal with this life-threatening situation in their own way. I also liked how the film chose to go back and forth between Redford's kidnapped character and his wife throughout, as each plotline brought new clues into the man's dire circumstance. I was also surprised by the film's darker elements, which I didn't expect from a movie starring Robert Redford. Willem Dafoe also came through as per his usual style, but this time, playing a somewhat na´ve, yet deranged, individual with much vagueness about him. The chemistry between he and Redford was essential and palpable throughout. The two seemed to go through all of the emotions that individuals placed in their situation would go through including fear, anger, empathy, love, hate and more.

Helen Mirren, playing Redford's wife stuck at home with the FBI, also handled her part extremely well, presenting us with a portrait of a woman who doesn't seem to possess the capacity to convey overt emotion, but who ultimately learns much about herself and her husband, through the very unfortunate proceedings. The kids might've been better exploited in the movie, and I wasn't particularly pulled into any deeper emotional recesses, but in the end, I quite enjoyed the picture, particularly for the performances, the directing (I love how the film opened with both characters going through their typical morning routines, and the fact that the ultimate revelation wasn't shown on screen, as much as it was alluded to, at first), its cinematography and the mannered pace at which both the plotline and its revelations were dropped into our laps. This might be one of my shortest reviews this year, but there's really not much more to say. The film is sure to connect with the over-40 crowd more than the younger folk and I personally wouldn't mind watching it again on DVD (the more you talk about certain elements, the clearer they become) Don't go in expecting a thriller and you might be happily surprised by this engaging psychological character drama with elements of suspense.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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