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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.
Ah, horror sequels – what can you say about them that haven’t been said before? We’re at a point now where not even the most ardent and committed of horror fans can argue the notion that sequels in this particular genre of filmmaking are largely motivated by the prospect of a huge cash-in at the box office. It’s understandable; filmmakers need to make films that make money so that they can make more films.
There are occasions, however, where that motivation is all too obvious and Sinister 2 suffers exactly that. Following on from the relatively unnerving original starring Ethan Hawke, to call this a sequel would be giving the script far too much credit; there are no new ideas or even any kind of continuation with the story of the film’s antagonist, Bughuul.
In the first film, we’re told that Bughuul possesses a child, who then goes on to murder his or her family. The house in which the murder takes place is then essentially haunted, driving the next tenants – who discover videos of the previous murders – away, but back into the arms of Bughuul, where they are murdered by, again, one of the children – and so on and so forth. There are various small details in between the cracks of this vicious cycle – violent dreams, creepy twins, a clan of ghost-kids – but the problem with Sinister 2 is that it revisits all of these elements and expects you to be okay with that. It’s not okay; in fact, it’s terrible. This ‘sequel’ essentially retreads the same skeleton of the plot and, because of a typically rosy ending, is far inferior in terms suspense and expectation – it’s the same but nowhere near as good, is what this review title could have read.
The only glimmer of light to come through the film is the performance of James Ransone, who reprises what was peripheral role in the original as the nameless deputy. There’s a real sense of the character – credited as Deputy So & So – being a kind-hearted, lone-wolf gun-slinger who wants to do good and is often misunderstood because of it. He’s worn-out, he’s tired and he’s always on the move. Aesthetically, the film hits the right notes – but, again, there are no surprises; the family lives in an old, creaky farmhouse, for example.
If ever there was a perfect example of the misguided nature of the film sequel, Sinister 2 is it. You can commend a sequel for trying to build on and expand the original, but this film seems to have regressed.
British director, Guy Ritchie, is somewhat of a divisive character in the world of cinema; the former Mr Madonna stirred British film with his first two features, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but his filmography from then on reads like a lexicon of poorly realised visions (he had Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Mark Strong to play with in Sherlock Holmes, yet still made a mess of it), the latest of which comes in the form of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Based on the 60s TV show of the same name, some of Hollywood’s top male leads were rumoured to be in the running for the role of the brilliantly named Napolean Solo – think Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Jon Hamm – before this generation’s Superman, Henry Cavill, was cast – and it’s not a bad choice.
While many have used words like ‘wooden’ and ‘uncharismatic’ to adjudge the 32 year-old Brit’s portrayal of Superman, the man who many are predicting will take the 007 mantle from Daniel Craig fits the Guy Ritchie aesthetic and you’ll find yourself rooting for him as he teams up with a KGB officer played by Arnie Hammer to stop a Nazi nuclear threat that looms over both the US and Russia in the early 60s.
As with so many of Ritchie’s films, the style shadows the substance, but the director’s distinctive aesthetic shines and carries the film through some enjoyable action set-pieces. There’s a pleasing marriage of humour, kitsch and basic action that Ritchie has come to perfect and while The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pales in comparison to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch whose success was owed partly to its satirical take on the British underworld, you won’t get bored, even if it is in fact the sets, the costumes and the more than photogenic cast that keep you engaged.
At the end of the day, however, you can’t get away from the fact that the film doesn’t exactly avoid spy-film clichés; the basic story – two opposing spies team-up to fight a mysterious enemy with unclear motives – proves as such and the film as whole doesn’t stand-up to second viewing – fool me once, et al.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is Ritchie’s first film in almost four years and if he is ever to be considered an auteur, which his initial rise promised, he needs to do something spectacular and soon.