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The Clearing (2004)



Average Rating: 5.6/10
Reviews Counted: 131
Fresh: 56 | Rotten: 75

Though it has an excellent cast, this emotionally detached movie is the kind that one admires more than enjoys.


Average Rating: 5.6/10
Critic Reviews: 36
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 18

Though it has an excellent cast, this emotionally detached movie is the kind that one admires more than enjoys.



liked it
Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 7,330

My Rating

Movie Info

Dutch film producer Pieter Jan Brugge makes his directorial debut with the dramatic thriller The Clearing. Affluent executive Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford) and his lovely wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), live in a beautiful home in Pittsburg. One day, Wayne is kidnapped by disgruntled employee Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe). He is then held for ransom in a forest. Meanwhile, Eileen is forced to reckon with the FBI agents as they negotiate with the kidnapper. Alessandro Nivola and Melissa Sagemiller star


Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense

Justin Haythe

Nov 9, 2004


Fox Searchlight Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (137) | Top Critics (38) | Fresh (56) | Rotten (75) | DVD (27)

A thriller stripped of thrills -- or, even worse, a thriller that thinks of itself as somehow rising above the vulgar pleasures of excitement.

August 1, 2004
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An intriguing but dramatically stunted psychological thriller about a kidnapping.

July 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Everything about it is stultifying, unexceptional and dull.

July 9, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's watchable only if you don't mind that there isn't a shock, a surprise or a message in its 91 minutes.

July 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A kidnapping drama that may be too intentionally low-key to qualify as a thriller but that accrues weight and tension as it makes its way through a forest of repressed emotion.

July 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Redford and Dafoe have all the fun, but Mirren exhibits the most talent.

July 8, 2004 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Good performances almost make it worthwhile.

December 28, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

I just expected a lot more in the end, and really just didn't get it with a routine script, bland plot, and an ending that was too sudden to be accepted.

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

It's pretty bland, even though the trailer would lead you to believe otherwise.

June 17, 2005 Full Review Source: FromTheBalcony

...a very good thriller that could've (and should've) been a great one...

January 15, 2005 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

[Mirren, Redford, and Dafoe] cannot get a fire going in this cliché-soggy kindling.

December 31, 2004
Christianity Today

Lo que mantiene el interés es el cada vez más impredecible comportamiento de la esposa, animada además por una estupenda Helen Mirren (la mejor intérprete de la película).

December 26, 2004 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

Há dois bons filmes em Refém de uma Vida, mas estes se enfraquecem mutuamente em função da estrutura narrativa adotada pelo cineasta.

November 22, 2004 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

The first 10 minutes are promising, but then the film, a wannabe thriller, loses steam

November 14, 2004 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

...may not be the most exciting or well-focused drama of the year, but it manages to engage our intellect most of the time and keep us guessing well up to the end.

November 7, 2004 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

A haunting film about the evil that men do.

September 10, 2004
Tyler Morning Telegraph (Texas)

European sensibility controls The Clearing, a fact that might frustrate American moviegoers who arrive expecting something more flashy.

August 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The Clearing is what it sounds like: stripped of ornamentation, undeluded about its subjects, lucid about the limits of human behavior.

August 10, 2004 Full Review Source: Nick's Flick Picks
Nick's Flick Picks

Talky and mawkish.

August 8, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

What should make for a taut, suspenseful thriller drowns in an ocean of verbiage.

July 31, 2004 Full Review
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

[I]t remains a mystery why anyone thought that this was a story that needed to be told, or who they thought would be engaged by the problems of these bland, distant people.

July 28, 2004 Full Review

There's no urgency in the execution and no point to the resolution -- all in all, a major disappointment for those seeking cinematic sanctuary.

July 21, 2004 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

By the time The Clearing was over, my single greatest feeling was: Why did anyone want to make this movie?

July 21, 2004 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Man, aren't WASPs boring? The movie's simply not deep enough to be an art film, and nowhere near entertaining enough to pass itself off as a satisfying thriller.

July 21, 2004 Full Review
Philadelphia Weekly

An enterprising but ultimately unsatisfying exercise that promises quite a lot, but delivers very little.

July 20, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Audience Reviews for The Clearing

Much better than I'd anticipated, not the biggest fan of Helen Mirran nor Robert Redford and yet both gave enjoyable performances.
July 16, 2012

Super Reviewer

This little 2004 drama is a slow-burn thriller about a successful businessman (Redford) who is one day kidnapped and held for ransom by a former employee (Dafoe). Once word gets out about the abduction, it is up to the businessman's wife (Mirren) to deliver the ransom.

The ideas going on, and the way they are executed is kinda alrighr, and this had the potential to be really good. However, the film ultimately faisl to deliver a product that is as compelling as it could be. The film is edited in a way to make it seem that all the events are happening simultaneously, when in reality this isn't quite the case.

I kinda liked this idea, but with the way it plays out, I think the film would have ultimately been far better and stronger had they just told it in a more straightforward fashion, with greater emphasis on motives, characters, and that kind of thing. All of that is there, but it seems a little weak. Maybe I should just try to overlook that though since this was Pieter Jan Brugge's first film as a director.

There are things I liked about it. The casting is good, and they give pretty decent performances. The film has a good atmosphere and tone, and there are some parts that are really suspenseful and done quite well. I was never bored watching the film, yet it left me a little unfulfilled and wondering why the people behind the film made the decisions they did.

Despite it's problems and the fact that it ultimately isn't a successful movie, you can tell they tried to make it good. The psychological elements are nice, too. I don't really ultimately recommend it, yet I still kinda liked it, or at least some it, or the concepts.

I wantd this to be good, and even though it's not, it does come fairly close.
August 11, 2011
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Alessandro Nivola, Melissa Sagemiller, Matt Craven

DIRECTED BY: Pieter Jan Brugge

Wayne and Eileen Hayes live the American Dream. Together they've raised two children and struggled to build a successful business from the ground up. But there have been sacrifices along the way. When Wayne is kidnapped by an ordinary man, Arnold Mack, and held for ransom in a remote forest, the couple's world is turned inside out. Eileen finds her home full of FBI Agents, their life under scrutiny. While Wayne is engaged in the negotiation of his lifetime, Eileen works frantically with the FBI to secure his release. The terrifying ordeal causes Wayne and Eileen to reassess their marriage and come to a deeper sense of their commitment to each other. With each passing hour, the need and desire for Wayne to return home safely becomes ever more urgent.

Not your typical thriller. Although there are many mixed reviews, I am one of the few that enjoyed the simplicity of this film. Very little action, but suspense all the way through. It keeps you on edge of what is going to happen until the very end. It also doesn't have the traditional ending that you usually get. I think it was done smart. Love Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, and Willem Dafoe so I had to see this film. It wasn't a disappointment. It does seem to go a little slow at times, but not so much that its bothersome. Well to me at least. But I enjoyed it. Worth seeing.
March 9, 2010

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