“ Genre: Crime & Thriller / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Pascal Laugier / Actors: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, William B. Davis ... / DVD released 2013-03-18 at Koch Media / Features of the DVD: Dolby, PAL, Surround Sound, Widescreen „
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Film Only Review.
Finding myself with some time to myself this afternoon, I turned to Netflix to provide some entertainment and settled down to watch a film which was on their 'dark films' list of genres.
This film was certainly dark in every sense of the word. Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) is a widowed nurse surrounded by the joyless inhabitants of a town with no hope. There is no work in this former mining town and the long shadow of poverty is cast over the dismal hovels in which they live and raise their children. Her own neat home and well cared for little boy is an oasis of calm in this dismal setting.
But a shady spectre lurks in the woods beyond the town - the Tall Man - a creature given the status of a bogeyman by the townsfolk, has been taking the children. Many have gone missing over the years and never been found.
When Julia discovers her own child has been taken from his bed she sets off to chase the abductor.
...And to divulge any more would spoil the plot.
And you need to stay sharp to unravel this plot. What is presented in the early part of the film makes the viewer believe they are about to watch a straightforward thriller about a mother trying to find a kidnapped child. We know who is good, who is bad, we know where the plot is going. Well, actually we don't.
This is a story which keeps you on your toes with sudden plot twists - and until all is revealed at the end we are kept guessing.
I haven't seen Jessica Biel in many things before. I was pleasantly surprised. She is actually quite a decent actress and I appreciated her performance in this. As the convoluted tale develops you realise that it took a good deal of acting ability to hold this lead role together and make her character convincing. William B Davis plays the deadpan local sheriff well and the other notable character in my view is the mute child Jenny played by Jodelle Ferland.
The film, directed and written by Pascal Laugier is very atmospheric and dark from the outset. The gloomy lives of the towns people is echoed by the scenery and even the weather in this. The aptly named Cold Rock is a dead town. Everything is broken; the houses, the cars, the industry, the families. It is portrayed as a dysfunctional place where the people merely stagnate and nothing can flourish. This atmosphere is emphasised by the presence of a dark swampy forest and long, dark roads. The weather is as unfriendly as the miserable inhabitants. The abduction of Julia's child occurs to claps of thunder.
The first part of the film feels quite slow and it seems nothing much happens. The pace of the film speeds up as the film gets into its stride. The director makes selective choices where to put the accompanying music and when to leave it out completely. A lot of the suspenseful scenes are made more so because there are large empty stretches of silence. There are lots of over the shoulder/ round the corner camera shots which add to the sense of menace - and although in a thriller of this nature you tend to expect the unexpected, I did jump once or twice.
The script is generally sound and believable although there was an odd moment which could be seen as either just plain cringeable or dark humour when the leading lady tells the mute girl to 'go home and don't say anything to anyone.'
After 100 minutes of watching this rather bleak and often brain-addling film, I still feel confused. The film plunges into the theme of social consciousness and leaves you with more questions than answers. It presented a plot twist too far for me. However, it made an interesting and thought provoking watch although I hesitate to use the word enjoyable. I would give it 3 and a half dooyoo stars.
The DVD is available on Amazon for £7.32 (as at 12/09/13)