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ALONG CAME A SPIDER

Directed by Lee Tamahori (2001, Paramount Pictures)
Starring Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, and Mika Boorem

A Washington detective is drawn into a case where a kidnapper tries to gain maximum publicity for his crime.

 

 

3 stars+

September 14th, 2007 on DVD for the 3rd time  

 

3 stars

May 14th, 2004 on TV for the 2nd time  
    As with the first time I saw this movie, I felt it was terrific up until we reach the twist ending. This time, knowing that Jezzie was the guilty one, I watched for clues. Unfortunately, there weren't many. The only thing I could turn up was the line "what if you betray what you are?", as if she was having second thoughts. And, of course, the suggestion to stake-out the Russian embassy.

This time around, I figured out a better ending for the movie. It would have made more sense if Jezzie and her partner decided that their fates were sealed, that they would never work again with the secret service after the kidnapping. So they would decide on some desperate last minute plan to benefit from the situation. They would just have to stay one step ahead of the police, and the plot would have made more sense than simply "this is better than a secret service pension". That's a pathetic motive for what they went though. Ah, well.

I thought, while watching this movie on TV, that a large chunk had been cut for time, where Cross turns his suspicions towards Jezzie, but after reading my review, below, I discovered that it was missing in the original cut, too. It is unfortunate that the ending nearly destroys the movie, because the rest of it is so good, so intense, and so riveting. I love movies that make us follow the clues to get to the answer. This one did a great job through most of its running time. I hope Morgan Freeman decides to do another movie with this character, because he has great style, and so does his character.

 

 

3 stars

April 7th, 2001 in the Theatre for the 1st time  
    An excellent and riveting setup, which devolves with an unnecessary twist and poor execution at the end.

Although this was a sequel to Kiss the Girls, it was more drama and had very little of the "thriller" feeling to it. There was suspense, and there were moments where the characters were frightened, but there was no time in the movie where the audience was even remotely put into that situation.

Morgan Freeman can really do no wrong. Throughout the entire movie, whether his character was being lauded or trampled on, whether he was figuring things out or missing things, he showed us how strong an actor he is. He was just terrific. Every time he made a discovery, he got excited, but it was a subdued excitement, the kind exhibited by somebody who has seen it all, and is really surprised by nothing. 

As with Kiss the Girls, the movie begins with a scene that sets the stage, but is not really relevant to the rest of the film. In the former, we get to see how good Alex Cross is. In this one, we see that he can make mistakes, too. He loses his partner because he lets her get into an undercover situation just a little too far. The scene where he watches her fall over the dam in the car is entirely riveting. But it doesn't really amount to much. When he returns to work on the kidnapping case, which is the focus of this film, we never get the feeling that he's been sulking around for almost a year.

The kidnapping of Megan Rose occurs right under the nose of FBI agent Jezzie Flanagan, and she feels terrible. The teacher, Mr. Soneji, had obviously planned this entire escapade since he began teaching at the school for diplomats, two years ago. The actual kidnapping was pretty well executed; there was no way for anybody to know what had happened. It's just too bad he decided to leave a dead teacher in his wake. But that must have been part of his plan. Otherwise, how would they have known it was him? Because he wanted to get caught. 

He contacts Cross, because he knows that Cross is the one detective who can appreciate him. He has left really neat clues for Cross to follow, including a webcam in the mouth of a photo of Charles Lindbergh, whom he idolizes. For Soneji wants to become as famous as the kidnapper of the Lindbergh child. This becomes clear when they follow the webcam to Soneji's home (by spying prescription drugs in a mirror) and find the biography of the Lindbergh kidnapper sitting in between Cross's two published works, profiles of serial killers. 

Cross teams up with Jezzie after she pushes him to become his partner. And she follows him around, learning how to become a better agent, but doesn't add anything to Cross' investigation until she she prompts him by asking why Soneji decided to kidnap the young daughter of a virtually unknown senator. They figure out what I knew from early on: that Soneji was after the son of the Russian President, also attending that school, and who was very good friends with Megan. And much more worthy of the fame like the Lindbergh kidnapper.

Jezzie suggests a stakeout at the Russian embassy, where they catch Soneji in the act of communicating with the young Russian. They drive him off, but fail to capture him. When Soneji returns to his boat, where he is keeping the girl, she is gone. 

Intriguing, to say the least. Soneji had everything figured out. He had stayed one step ahead of everybody, until Jezzie suggested the stakeout. That should have set off alarms right away. But it felt like Cross was finally getting the upper hand.

Soneji apparently changes tactics, and goes for money, instead. He sends Cross on a goose chase that had me thinking of the similar tactic used in Die Hard With a Vengeance. I don't remember if that one was superior, but it was too similar, in any event. Ten million dollars in diamonds has now been transferred, no questions asked. Cross had the opportunity to kill the man, but didn't, because he knew that would kill any chance of getting Megan back.

But Soneji comes to visit Cross in person next time. He nearly kills Jezzie, and doesn't realize that Cross has figured out, by verbal sparring, that the kidnapper has lost his young charge. And he has no problem killing the man when he tries to take Jezzie hostage. 

It turns out that one of the security agents from the school, whom Cross interviewed briefly, kidnapped Megan from the kidnapper and demanded the diamond ransom. That was a neat twist, although putting Jezzie in partnership with him left me feeling used. It felt like a cliché. After I thought about it, it made more sense, so I think what really bothered me was how the directing and acting took a sudden turn for the worse right at this moment. 

The point where Jezzie sneaks up on her partner and puts a gun to his head, only to kiss him passionately and laugh her Evil Laugh reminded me of the much better scene that this was taken from, in Ransom. We didn't need the Evil Laugh, nor the cliché of having Jezzie kill her partner because Cross was "on to you". In fact, Cross was on to both of them, as he realized they had the opportunity to stop Soneji at the gate, instead of trying to pursue his car on foot (which I thought was strange at first, but rationalized it to myself almost immediately).

Somehow, though, I felt that I missed a big chunk of the movie, as Cross seems to suspect Jezzie immediately after he kills Soneji. He doesn't tell her that he knows Soneji has lost Megan. He goes back to her apartment without her, turns on her computer and begins to rifle through her things. Using another cliché that the guilty always use a password sacred to them so that the investigator can figure it out in one try, Cross gets easy access to her computer, and discovers that Jezzie had been monitoring Soneji for over a year. She was nice enough to keep a copy of the online ad she answered for renting a barn to hide out in while she held on to Megan. But wait -she just killer her partner when she discovered that Megan was not dead and thrown into the ocean! Why would she need a discrete place to hide out? So she could grin that Evil Grin as she watched the diamonds roll out into the palm of her hand?

At least when she goes to kill Megan, the girl was smart enough to block the door. And the relief Megan felt when she heard Jezzie's voice was really genuine. Unfortunately, Megan became suspicious, something that shouldn't have happened. But even so, when asked the question "why are you alone", she could have easily fabricated a lie, saying perhaps that the others were in the main house. Megan was not suspicious of Cross when he showed up, another complete stranger. In the final clichéd scene, Cross tries to redeem Jezzie, but is unable to do so, and ends up shooting her.

It's too bad the movie ended up with such a terrible ending. Because it was terrific through most of the first 90 minutes. I was on the edge of my seat as Cross was put through his maneuvers, and the scenes at the Russian embassy were very engrossing, as I didn't know what was going to happen next -and I really cared! I was really, really enjoying myself. The twist of somebody being one step ahead of the kidnapper was also a neat idea. And it makes sense that Jezzie should be part of the plan, too. Unfortunately, the execution of that twist was so bad that I thought it should have been abandoned completely. Perhaps having the security man be a larger part of the initial story, helping in the investigation, and then have him work alone. I don't know. Anything but the ending we got. But the movie wasn't all bad. In fact, for the longest time, it was even excellent.
 
   

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