Bringing Carla home
In a Stranger's Hand (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
In a Stranger's Hand (DVD)
Advantages: A good thriller
Disadvantages: Plot holes, need to suspend disbelief
Jack Bauer (no, not THAT Jack Bauer) is a workaholic businessman who has little room in his life for anything else, including his girlfriend with whom he is supposed to be on holiday. Hoping he can follow her later, he is on the underground on his way to an important meeting when he sees a little girl with a woman. That little girl then gets off the train, leaving her stuffed toy behind; when Jack tries to chase after her, he sees a poster in the train window - advertising the disappearance of the very little girl, called Carla, he has just seen. A chance meeting with the Carla's mother, Laura, means that Jack gets involved in the police investigation into Carla's apparent kidnap - and that involvement soon becomes deeper than he could have ever imagined. Can he do what the police can't - bring Carla home?
Made back in 1991, long before Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer came into being, this film was made-for-TV, which immediately lowered my expectations. However, it is actually a decent thriller - it is not without its flaws, but then very few films are - and it is worth a watch if thrillers are your genre of choice. Please note that it is known as In a Stranger's Hand in the UK, but ...And Then She Was Gone in the US.
Jack Bauer is played by Robert Urich, an actor with whom I am not familiar, although his filmography goes on forever. Bauer is a selfish man who puts his career before anything else and initially, would clearly rather have nothing to do with the situation he finds himself in. However, we do see him soften during the course of the film, which gives his character some depth, and I thought that Urich did a really good job of this. It isn't a role that stretches him unduly, but he certainly did the best he could. And then there is the action aspect - Bauer has an unfortunate habit of getting beaten up rather more than he would like, as well as being chased all over the place. Urich doesn't initially seem like a man who would lend himself well to action - he is quite heavyset - but actually, he does very well in the role and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him. Sadly, Urich died of cancer back in 2002, so he won't be making any more films.
Megan Gallagher is not quite so appealing as Laura. She has a great chance to be emotive and really show off her acting skills, but comes over as being a little wooden at times. There is one scene in particular where she really breaks down, but it just didn't feel natural and I felt quite uncomfortable watching it. However, she isn't completely awful and there is a scene towards the end where she does at least partially redeem herself. Little Carla is played by Erica Dill, who is adorable. She doesn't have a massive role, being kidnapped and out of sight for most of the film, but she handles what she has very well - there is none of the precocious child star here.
Probably the weakest part of the film is the plot. The idea that Jack Bauer becomes so involved in what is basically a police affair is hard to believe; even harder to believe is the fact that Laura comes to depend more on Jack than the police. And the solution to the crime when it becomes clear towards the end of the film really requires suspending disbelief. However, the acting and the pacing of the movie just about make up for the plot holes, so I was prepared to overlook them. It appears that the film is 'based on a true story' - obviously I don't know how far the 'true story' was rewritten, but I would imagine that it was quite substantially so.
The pacing is certainly great; the film bubbles along nicely with very few opportunities for the viewer to get bored. There is even a touch of humour, mainly in the way that Bauer keeps getting beaten up. The violence is fairly understated for a thriller, mainly directed at Bauer's face, but the topic of a child being kidnapped is obviously a distressing one, so the 15 rating is probably about right.
The film was clearly made on a budget. The sets are dull, usually in one room or another, which is a shame because the odd shot of the location looks as though it might be San Francisco, which I love. However, I think director Peter Greene has done a great job in turning the film into a taut thriller nevertheless. I've read a couple of comments on imdb.com that liken the film to one of Hitchcock's - I think that is taking things way too far, mainly because the plot just isn't strong enough and there is nothing out of the ordinary about the cinematography, but certainly for a made-for-TV thriller, it is a cut above the rest.
There are a selection of extras that come with the DVD, but none of them are really worth watching. Two of them are written extras - biographies of the two main actors and some background information on the film. Then there are a selection of trailers for random films I hadn't heard of, presumably from the same distributor.
On the whole, I thought this film was a good watch and it certainly isn't a bad way of spending an hour and a half. People will be put off by the 'made-for-TV' label, which is a shame - Urich's performance is certainly on a par with most so-called Hollywood thrillers. I'm not sure I would bother buying the DVD unless you can buy it cheaply, but it is certainly worth looking out for on the television. Recommended for fans of thrillers.
The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99. However, I bought mine from Sainsbury's for just £1, so it's worth shopping around.
Running time: 89 minutes
Summary: Much better than expected