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Sphere (1998)
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Review Date: August 16, 1998
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Kurt Wimmer, Stephen Hauser, Paul Attanasio
Producers: Barry Levinson, Michael Crichton and Andrew Wald
Actors:
Dustin Hoffman as Norman Goodman
Sharon Stone as Beth Halperin
Samuel L. Jackson as Harry Adams
Plot:
Underwater spacecraft in uncovered by the U.S. government, and four relevant experts in their respective fields are sent down to investigate the unknown entity. Once beneath the ocean, the group makes contact with a source from within the vessel, and attempt to piece together the mystery that is the sphere inside the unexplained discovery.
Critique:
Cool premise and eerie buildup from the first hour, ultimately downshifts into an unsatisfying film that drags long past its bedtime, and turns into a gobbledygook of psychological head games and illusions. Add to that the loss of coherency about halfway, and a major anticlimactic ending, and I can't really say that I thoroughly enjoyed this two-hour plus piece of celluloid. Which is all too bad, because I really liked the first hour, especially the whole claustrophobic feel of the group underwater with the unknown swimming all about them.

The actors all play their cards real well, with Schreiber pulling off a good performance as the egghead astrophysicist, and Sam Jackson coming through as the hairless mathematician with the uneven glimmer in his eye. Stone was also pretty good, but nothing special could be said about Hoffman's by the numbers "nervous dude" character, whose umpteenth performance he seemed to be calling in from his home. And despite Levinson creating some real suspense early on, the overall feel of the picture was quite uneven, along with the absence of a gentleman by the name of style.

Overall, this movie did offer some suspenseful and potentially potent scenes early on, but by the end of this overly long picture, I just felt like a kid who'd been staring at a nacho plate all evening, only to have it taken away at the last minute by a grumpy old man with a crutch. The ending is lame and confusing, the payoff from the early decent premise never really comes through, and the clock ticks at least thirty minutes past its due time. Having said that, the performances are decent, and the early tension and suspense of the film is enough for me to recommend it for at least one night of dark, moody strangeness and confusion.

Note to nacho-platers: Don't waste your salsa on this one. Slap some sour cream on the side, and you should be okay.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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