Tuesday, May 15, 2007

No Flesh Was Eaten In The Filming Of This Movie

Today's film: Fracture. Greg Hoblit, a director with whom I am unfamiliar, gives us the story of a man who shoots his adulterous wife and then represents himself at trial against a cocky young District Attorney whose mind is not on his work.

I was intrigued at the first trailer I saw, mostly because any opportunity for Anthony Hopkins to play a bad guy seems worth showing up for. And more's the accomplishment for Hopkins when he's already on the map for such an iconic bad guy--Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs--yet manages to make this new character quite different. There's always the risk, I'd think, that viewers would only see Hannibal Lecter anytime Hopkins was on screen, and the risk skyrockets when he's asked to play another eccentric, brilliant murderer. Kudos to him that, for me at least, the thought never crossed my mind as I watched. (As an aside, I loved the Hannibal Lecter character, and I remember reading an interview with Hopkins where he said he knew immediately upon reading the script how he would play the character; and it's really Hopkins' doing too since Briton Brian Cox had a crack at the same character in 1986's Manhunter. Lecter was the same compelling character there, but Hopkins went considerably further with his characterization, and there is great sublety in his portrayal of what is, in many ways, not a very subtle character.)

Based on the trailers and the fairly extensive promotional website for Fracture, I was less prepared to Like Ryan Gosling, whose only other film outing I've seen was The Notebook (which I confess I watched under some duress, not least because it's not in my habit to take specific, strategic steps to ensure that I shed tears). I felt his work there was only adequate, and the trailers for Fracture made him seem not-quite-leading-man in stature. But that impression is fitting to Gosling's character, and he pulls it off very well, really. With the role of Assistant District Attorney Willy Beacham, Gosling kind of takes up the mantle from Tom Cruise's early films as the cocky 20-something who finds himself unwittingly in over his head and manages, after a stumble or two, to rise to the occasion.

With a good supporting cast, the story is really all about the mental chess game between Hopkins and Gosling, and Hoblit keeps us on the edge of our seats in a manner very like Alfred Hitchcock. There is almost continuous tension, but leavened with occasional flashes of light-heartedness, and we're kept guessing exactly how things will work out right to the very end. While Susan tends to know in a movie's first 30 seconds how things will work out, I was really unsure which of three or four possible outcomes the movie might take. And that uncertainty plays right thru the story, with Hopkins being a bit spooky but not entirely unsympathetic--his wife was rather boldly cheating on him, after all, and Gosling's Beacham is not exactly a guy to root for. And so the movie leaves you hanging for much of the time in a kind of ethical limbo.

As always, I have to sit on things before I really decide what I think of a movie. And in this one there are a few things that nag. (WARNING! Spoiler ahead!) Double joepardy prevents us from trying a person more than once on a single charge, and so Anthony Hopkins' acquittal on an attempted murder charge means he can't be charged again for it, no matter what evidence is uncovered. He counts on this. But as for the film's final twist or two, if he didn't attempt to murder his wife, legally, then he can't be guilty of murdering her when she finally dies of the same injuries for which he was acquitted, can she? And further, his maneuvering, as the husband, to have his wife's respirator legally removed cannot be deemed murder when A) he didn't (legally) attempt to murder her, and B) he has the legal right as a husband to decide his wife's end-of-life issues--a right upheld by a court giving him the right to pull the plug on her. I mean, it makes for a great plot-thickener at the end, but does it make sense? It's as though the tension of the story requires the two guys to be in so deep, inextricably deep into the mess that recovery is impossible; and the tension is in wondering how they make it out. But if the denouement doesn't add up--if a deus ex machina must be employed to bring things to a conclusion--then one feels a wee bit cheated.

If you've seen it, tell me what I'm missing (Susan would do it, but I'm working this week and she didn't see it with me). And if you haven't seen it--and I haven't ruined it for you--then I recommend it. Practical snafus aside (if that's what they are), it's still a pretty good two hours.

Grade: B

1 comment:

Joshua said...

I am always a bit leary of those double jeopardy plots. Rarely do they actually look at the process of law, and more often they just take the surface of the rule and apply it with broad strokes. Then, as you point out, God in the machine has to come down and wave his magic wand (God uses a wand, right?) and we walk out of the theatre shaking our heads, wondering what could have been, had the author done research or cared enough to apply it.

That being said, I have not seen this movie. AS much as I like Hopkins, I just can't stand Gosling. My wife has a good amount of chick flicks, and he was probably in one too many of them for me to look passed. And then there was Murder by Numbers. Ouch.

Still, with your recommendation, I have added it to my queue, and it should not be long before I have a weighted two cents.