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Gone: An 'Is She Crazy, Is She Sane' Psychological Thriller
Jill (Seyfried) doesn’t have the best relationship with the police. After being kidnapped and thrown into a hole in the middle of the forest, which she luckily managed to escape from, the police refused to believe a word she said and stuck her in a mental institution. Fast forward a bit and she’s out of the loony bin, dealing with anxiety problems, carrying a gun and taking kickboxing lessons. She comes home one day from her waitressing job to find her sister gone. Convinced that the kidnapper came back for her and took Molly (Wickersham) instead, she tries to get the police to take her claims seriously, but to no avail. Left with no other choice, she takes to the streets piecing together the clues to find Molly and her kidnapper, before time runs out.
This thriller requires you to suspend your powers of logic for a while. While for the most part it tries to be more of a psychological thriller, the moments which require Jill to do some actual sleuthing are a long shot - to put it mildly. The clues she finds as to the kidnapper’s whereabouts are either absurdly simple or completely farfetched. The latter in particular are a real crime since the kidnapper keeps asserting that he kidnapped Molly to lure Jill. If his aim was truly to lure Jill, the clues he left her wouldn’t have been so discreet, random and easily overlooked.
Also, the characters are pretty shallow. The police officers are uniformly incompetent or lazy or a mixture of both. They stand around looking annoyed for the whole film. As for Jill, she’s rather strange. She fluctuates between two states: one in which she’s single-mindedly obsessed with saving her sister and the other in which she compulsively lies to everyone she meets. The first is logical and, based on her own history with the kidnapper and her relationship with Molly, highly understandable. The latter however is just plain odd. We’re never given a motive or reason for why she’s such a pathological liar and it seems rather out of character. Would somebody in her nerve-wracking situation have it in them to lie so well, or keep their numerous stories straight for that matter? We’re told that Jill stuck to her story for the entire time that she was locked up in hospital. Would somebody who wouldn’t tell a fib to get out of a mental hospital become a chronic liar?
In addition to being a liar, the film also keeps trying to push the possibility that Jill isn’t really all there in the head, though seeing as it’s Jill’s word against that of the useless police force, the idea never really registers the way it should in order to give the film a decent psychological bend and keep the viewers guessing.
Despite its inconsistencies, Gone manages to be a decent, light thriller until the ending which derails the film completely. It’s not innovative and the film is very basic despite the attempt to give it depth. However, it’s rather fast paced and Seyfried makes for a very watchable heroine, even if her character makes little sense and is unworthy of her talent.
Rowan Joffe’s latest psychological thriller – based on S.J Watson’s nail-biting 2011 page-turner – is, sadly, anything but thrilling. Poorly-constructed and emotionally shallow, Before I Go to Sleep starts off with an absorbing premise, but fails sustain the intrigue needed to do its source material justice.
Having suffered a terrible car accident ten years ago, Christine Lucas (Kidman) wakes up every morning not knowing who or where she is. As a result of a severe head injury, the forty year-old suffers from a form of post-traumatic amnesia, which erases her most recent memories every night she goes to sleep.
Unable to recognise her own husband, Ben (Firth), she wakes up every morning in fear while her long-suffering partner sits on the edge of the bed patiently explaining – through a collage of pictures taped to the bathroom wall – who he is and who they are to one another.
Psychiatrist, Dr. Nash (Strong), calls her every morning, encouraging her to keep a video-diary. Convincing her to join an experimental treatment designed to jog her memory, Christine’s understanding of her life is put into doubt when she begins to unravel the real truth about her past and the fact that not everyone in her life is who they say they are.
Set somewhere in the UK – the exact location of which is never specified or visually depicted –Before I Go to Sleep starts off relatively strong and, for what it’s worth, Rowan Joffe manages to create a genuine sense of mystery surrounding his fragile protagonist from the film’s very first scene.
However, the story quickly begins to lose its edge – and focus – when Christine starts digging deeper into her past, quickly falling into clichéd thriller territory. That’s made all the worse with a few too many inconsistencies and far-fetched scenarios, all coming together to render it shallow and uninvolving.
It’s a darn shame, because the three main actors are all capable of delivering outstanding performances and both Kidman and Firth are convincing enough for the most part, though even they as characters seem detached to what should have been a complex and taxing plot.
Many have pointed to Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking thriller, Memento, and even Adam Sandler comedy, 50 First Dates, as two films that, despite being at opposite ends of the spectrum, deal with similar plot devices in much more decisive ways. Before I Go to Sleep has neither the intelligence of the former nor the comic relief of the latter and, in the end, really just has nothing.
Arriving in cinemas in a tornado of controversy, the behind-the-scene chaos of Paul Schrader’s Dying of the Light is much more interesting than the film itself. The man who penned classics like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull was quick to distance himself from the project ahead of its release after some rather sticky backstage problems with the producers.
Centred on bitter veteran C.I.A agent, Evan Lake (Cage), the thriller is essentially a revenge story, with the hero of the piece holding a ceaseless grudge against at-large terrorist, Mohamed Banir (Karim).
After his employers begin to push him into retirement, his young protégé, Milton Schultz (Yelchin), finds a lead on the whereabouts of Lake’s long-time nemesis, sending the two on a perilous hunt in Kenya.
Six or so weeks before its release, Schrader posted a message on his official Facebook page, reading "We lost the battle.’Dying of the Light,' a film I wrote and directed, was taken away from me, reedited, scored and mixed without my input."
It’s something that becomes apparent pretty soon into the film, with the film’s cinematographer, Gabriel Kosuth, also washing his hands of the released version of the film, saying that he was “denied the possibility to accomplish in post-production what is any cinematographer’s duty.”
Whatever the claims may be, the reality of the final outcome is farcical. Nothing about Dying of the Light makes sense; everything about the narrative feels rushed, over-explained and inflated by its seemingly bizarre and hard-hitting score.
In the middle of the mess is poor Nicolas Cage – a man who will, more than anyone else, suffer the butt of ridicule for the universally panned film. In the actor’s defence, there’s little anyone could have salvaged from the train-wreck film and even the most skilled of actors would have struggled to come out of this looking anything but ludicrous.
There are moments where Cage’s trademark subtle grit falls into place with the storyline and just the very notion of a damaged and imperfect agent is a timeless set-up for any thriller; unfortunately, regardless of the clash between Schrader and the producers, this is still a bland, unintelligent thriller – and that word should be used in the loosest sense.