Wednesday, 5 May 2010

No.30 : The Clearing

Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and Willem Dafoe star in this under seen but highly watchable kidnap thriller.

Redford plays Wayne, a successful businessman who lives in a fancy home with Helen. He heads off to work and is reminded to be home by six for a dinner party, but never shows up. Mirren has a sleepless night before calling the cops. We then flit back and forth to see how the kidnapping played out while Mirren realises what has happened.

We then join Redford and his kidnapper Dafoe in the titular woodland area where their psychological battle takes place. At the homestead Helen tries to keep a brave face as the FBI unravel their private life, including Robert’s past affairs. She’s helped along by her grown up children who included the annoying English guy out of the ’Goal’ films.

Dafoe, who at first seems a well organised planner, slowly starts to unravel as Redford pries into his past and spots his false moustache. Usually the advice isn’t to antagonise one’s captor or to get information that may later identify them but Dafoe is a regular chatterbox which may not bode well for Redford.

As kidnapper and hostage head towards the hunting lodge where the former’s confederates lie in wait Mirren has to contend to with being the bag woman for the $10 million in diamonds ransom. Will Wayne’s world come crashing down as he attempts a last ditch escape? Will Helen forgive and forget or keep the sparklers? and will our old pal the non-linear narrative have a last card to play?

This film is based on a real life Dutch kidnapping and although this film is peppered with a-listers you do still have a sense of foreboding for Redford’s character throughout. Redford is a well known friend of the definitive movie fan with ‘The Natural’, ‘The Sting’ and ‘The Candidate’ (not heard of that one) all in our future. He’s not a favourite of mine, always appearing to play himself, but he’s certainly got a great body of work behind him.

Speaking of great bodies Helen Mirren does her usual solid work although, shockingly, she keeps her clothes on for most of the film. Dafoe is great as the slightly unhinged kidnapper whose confidence is gradually chipped away by Redford’s sharp talking. I liked his cloudy motivation and unpredictability - the scariest kind of bad guys!

‘The Clearing’ of the title is probably more of a notion of clarity rather than a defined space in the woods as there isn‘t really one shown in the film. There probably was one, like the bit where Wayne put on his trainers but that was hardly a major plot point. Maybe it was referring to someone’s schedule being cleared? Yes, that’ll do it for me.

The triumph of the film is to keep you caring for a womanising, slightly smarmy lead who is on a hook for most of the film. As his life with Mirren is deconstructed by the Feds, and then by the wife who goes to see the mistress, you see that his bravado is all a front and he’s as scared as any of us would be in the situation he finds himself in.

The finale of the ransom drop has the familiar run around town elements with the bad guys always one step ahead, but it’s a welcome step up in pace and the tension generated makes for a fitting climax. As the film flits between the two leads you’re keen to get back to the other one and then back again so a good job done Mr Editor. The ending itself is no great surprise, if you pay attention throughout the film but is no less affecting for all that.

Some may find the pace a bit pedestrian, but I like a slow boiler and if you stick with it to the end you’ll be glad you did.

THE Tag Line : Worth Seeing Is The Clearing 67%

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