Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Forgotten

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 6 October 2004 at Loews Boston Common #3 (first-run)

So, what's the proper way to grade a movie? After careful consideration, I figure The Forgotten is probably a 2¼-star movie, but before careful consideration, while I was watching it, I enjoyed it quite a bit, maybe a full three stars' worth. For all the annoying parts and the story that really doesn't hold together that well, it's got some pretty fine craft and manages to engage the audience's curiosity.

There's a nice feeling of uncertainty during the first act; not only the plot twists revealed in the trailer show up early, but the very way the movie is shot is a little eerie. Both the opening credit sequence and a lot of establishing shots are long helicopter shots, with the camera taking odd turns. I was initially a little disappointed, since the possibility that Telly (Julianne Moore) had only imagined having a son was an intriguing one, but had been dashed by the advertising. Another plot twist soon appears, though, and I though, hmm, that's interesting. One point for writer Gerald Di Pego there.

And, I suppose, credit him and journeyman director Joseph Ruben for the progression of the story. The movie is a trim 91-odd minutes, and moves quickly enough to prevent a lot of question during the actual running time. Ruben stages some pretty darn good jump scenes when the movie threatens to slow down, or starts a chase scene. Good chases, but they do sort of come out of nowhere, like they're obviously trying to distract the audience.

And the audience needs distracting at times. I'm not sure whether the film is canny or cynical in how it plays with genre. Telly recognizes early on that the events of the story - everybody but her forgetting the very existence of her son who died fourteen months earlier - would require an extraordinary agency, and suggests it might be (blank). However, by not actually saying (blank), the movie avoids outright committing to either the sci-fi or horror genre, specifically. This is useful, because science fiction demands explanations on how this entity/group does what it does, whereas horror would demand knowing just what sort of checks exist on the bad guys who appear basically omiscient and omnipotent. Sure, you can explain that (blanks) do (blank) things for (blank) reasons, but that would require admitting they're (blanks). It makes a deus ex machina ending believable, if not quite palatable.

Julianne Moore is good; I don't think she's got it in her to simply mail a performance in. I can't say the same thing about Gary Sinise; even before signing up for the ultimate mail-in gig with a CSI spin-off, it's been a while since his last memorable role. Alfre Woodard is in about the same boat; the rest of the cast (including Dominic West as a father who also lost a child) are pretty nondescipt.

It's taken me an hour or so to write this; over that time, it's gotten harder and harder to concentrate on the thrills that the movie did, in fact deliver. I suppose that makes this a good example of a director making a good movie out of a faulty script.

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