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Directed by Gary Fleder (2001, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean, and Jennifer Esposito

As the ransom for his kidnapped daughter, a psychiatrist attempts to extract information from a patient which will lead to a multimillion dollar jewel.



3 stars

August 14th, 2002 on DVD  

Really well made, and very suspenseful, but many of the details left a trace of uncertainty afterwards.

One of the problems with adapting a book into a movie is showing all the detail that the original author gave, without the movie seeming awkward in the presentation. I didn't originally know that this movie was a book first. But now it all makes sense. There were many little things that didn't seem to pertain to the story, but make sense in the context of a book.

For example, the housekeeper didn't really have a part in the movie. She served no purpose beyond what we already knew: that the bad guy was watching Aggie.

Perhaps people from New York knew already that Hart Island is used for burying people whose identities were never found. Apparently not, though, because the cop didn't know, either. But my first thought was: why couldn't Patrick just look up the last name -then he would know which grave he wanted. But because the man's name was never known, nobody would know the grave number. This was a major detraction to me. There should still be some records. They knew what day the man died, and approximately when he was buried. In fact, the newspaper article from Elisabeth's file shows that the authorities knew she was the daughter of the John Doe killed by a subway. His name should have been easily found, either from the men who killed him, now gone to prison, or from the girl.

As for resolution, one character didn't get any. Dr. Sachs was roped into this case at first, and it's obvious that he didn't have any progress, so he passed Elisabeth on to Nathan. I think Patrick didn't take well to this, so that he killed Sachs' girlfriend. By the end, Sachs knows this. Nathan seems to take Elisabeth into his home, but what about Sachs? Was he so distraught that he would commit suicide, or just go out for a drink, or what? It doesn't really matter what happened, but we need to know his position at the end of the movie.

Aside from dramatic purposes, I can't figure out why Patrick didn't kill Nathan when he had the gun pointed at the man's face. Instead, he ducks and shoots the police-woman, then turns back to his former captive. The fight at the end was not my favorite part of the film. I thought more psychology would have worked better.

Those were the major topics that I found distracting, mostly after finishing the movie. However, while watching the film, I was riveted to the screen. I found the movie to be well made. Sure, there were moments that I've seen in several thriller movies, but they worked well.

Psychiatry is what Nathan uses to find his way out of the mess he finds himself in, and Michael Douglas is very good at delivering it. He recognizes right away that Elisabeth is faking her disease, to get away from the one person in the robbery group that didn't go to jail, and then from the others when their jail sentence is over.

Patrick was the leader of the thieves, who make a great robbery at the very beginning of the film. The staging of the robbery, the acting, and so on were all great. The diamond that they steal is worth $10 million, so no wonder Patrick is after revenge when one of his partners, Elisabeth's father, switches bags on him and takes the diamond. Later, he ends up in front of the subway car.

The director did a great job of showing us how much of a family man Nathan is. His scenes with his wife and daughter were actually kind of surreal. Mainly, I think this is because I kept expecting something to happen, and nothing did. It's only in the morning that we find out that his daughter has been kidnapped, and the ransom is the number hidden in Elisabeth's head.

And it is using her sympathy for Jessie that Nathan is able to get her help. A field trip to the subway station gets the whole story, done in some neat flashbacks.

The whole time, Patrick has been laying down the rules. He keeps in contact using a cell phone, and several watchers keep tabs on his every move, whether it's driving through a parade, or even talking with Elisabeth in the hospital. He even keeps watch over Nathan's wife, who is bedridden with a broken leg.

The kid was a smart one, but it wasn't her smarts that saved her. She does force them to move locations, from what I believe is in the apartment right below Nathan's, alerting her mother. So Aggie gets to battle one of the thieves for her life, in a standard tactic used to try and scare the audience.

Meanwhile, Nathan has figured out that Elisabeth's number is her father's grave, and takes control of the situation away from Patrick. They meet on the island, and Nathan finds the right grave, where they fight, and Patrick ends up buried alive.

While Michael Douglas was great in his role, I don't know if it was really challenging to him. However, the role of Elisabeth was terrifically cast. The actress did an amazing job bringing this girl to life. She really had me believing that she was really in this state. And as the movie progressed, she began to trust Nathan and opened up to him more and more, and became more sociable, as well. It was a remarkable transformation. I wondered why Nathan ignored the hand movement she was making when he first talked with her. It was obviously some kind of sign, and actually looked like it might be a number. But he missed that.

The directing was very good, as well. The material kept me wondering what was going to happen next, and the director kept the mood very creepy, without being jumpy. It was very effective. I was impressed.

It was only the little details, and a resolution to one of the characters, that were a little off. They were presumably given more depth in the book, and the screenwriter wanted to show a little of that. But isolated scenes, or missing scenes, don't do it justice. However, I don't know if it's better to simply omit those details... come to think of it, the Director's Commentary might have shed some light on these ideas... but I didn't have the energy or interest to listen to that.

The other features of the DVD were, as usual, hit-and-miss. The most interesting were the behind-the-scenes productions, and not the so-called "Behind-the-scenes Featurette". The latter was mainly interviews, and looked like something that might have been featured on a TV program before the film came out. But it was nice to see the actress who played Jessie -she looks just as smart in real life!

But the production features were often quite informative, not only from the perspective of what various people do, but we got a tour of some of the sets, and a chat with the director.  I did enjoy those very much. I would have liked to see a trailer for the movie, but the only one we got was for Michael Douglas' Wall Street. The cast biographies could have included a few more cast members, I think. What about the young girl? And as I mentioned above, there is a director commentary, but I didn't listen to any of it.


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