The Clearing Reviews
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.
i quite enjoyed this one guys...its full of suspense
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.
A great deal of viewers will pan The Clearing for being too "not down to the point", an intelligent suspense thriller about a wealthy man (Redford) kidnapped by an angry ex-employee (Dafoe) and held for ransom until the rich business owner's wife (Mirren) pays the price. Although The Clearing is creatively put together, I just doesn't get right down to the point. What you expect it to be is a kidnapping thriller but it turns into mostly a big discussion between Redford's character and Dafoe's character. Not that that is an insult to the film, their discussions are very carefully and skillfully written, it is just that we are expecting this movie to go places, it doesn't go.
The other half of the film consists of Mirren's character dealing with the F.B.I. and the kidnapper to get back her beloved husband. Her part of the film also consists of her chats with her two grown ?up children (played by Laurel Canyon's Alessandro Nivola and Soul Survivor's Melissa Sagemiller) who are visiting from out of town to comfort their mother in her time of need. The scenes of dialogue between Mirren and her son are very engrossing due mostly to the fact that Nivola is a great actor. However, the scenes of dialogue between Mirren and her daughter are perhaps the most tedious parts of the film, due mainly to the fact that Sagemiller is not a good actress, and unfortunately we get to see more of the scenes between Mirren and her daughter, then scenes with Mirren and her son. The most intriguing of Mirren's interactions of the film, is that of her and the F.B.I. agent in charge of getting back her husband, played by Matt Craven in one of his very best roles. In a whole, The Clearing is a film about interactions rather than actions.
The most rewarding element of Pierre Jan Brugge's The Clearing, is perhaps the acting. All three leads are pitch perfect in their roles, with talent to spare. Robert Redford gives us another great performance that was long awaited. Willem Dafoe is priceless and the meticulous and spooky kidnapper. I think Dafoe's role is the most interesting out of the bunch, but maybe unintentionally. In the hostage scenes with Dafoe and Redford, you're supposed to pay close attention to Redford's stories, but Dafoe's reactions to the stories turn out to be way more interesting. I think the best performance in The Clearing (which may be honored with an Oscar or at least Golden Globe nomination) is Helen Mirren as the intensely worried housewife of Robert Redford. She reels you into to feeling her emotions about this horrible and stressful situation. It takes real talent for an actress to do it, but it takes even more talent for an actress to do this without opening her mouth. That is what Helen Mirren achieves in this film, among many others she's been featured in over the years.
The ending of The Clearing is very disappointing. Although, it's realistic and not hokey, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. In the last fifteen minutes of the movie they lead you down the garden path into believing everything will be made clear at the end, and don't go through with it. The ending of the film will sit with you better a day after you've seen the picture then it will two seconds after the credits start rolling. You'll realize this was a smart unexpected way to end it, and that it was okay to not add everything up, because in real life not everything always adds up. I think the people who would be most disappointed in The Clearing, are those who watch a lot of television during the week. The reason being is that on television everything is neatly put together in a package and there are no loose ends in the final moments, but on film that doesn't always happen. I think film scholars would appreciate The Clearing substantially more than then the general public.
In closing, this is a good, not great, but good film from first time filmmaker Pierre Jan Brugee. Brugee does a sensational job for his first picture, and presents himself like he's been doing film-making all his life. He is a very bold filmmaker, with a lot of confidence that I'd like to see more of in the not-to-distant future. (review written 8/16/04) Grade: B (screened at AMC Deer Valley 30, Phoenix, Arizona)
The first thing that struck me was how cold, spartan and restrained the film is. Most of the sounds we hear, outside occasional ambient ones, are within the frame only. No one says anything from offscreen except, at most, in simple conversation. Lines are short and to the point, yet still feel natural. It's almost sterile, but, no, it isn't Kubrick, it's more a feeling of...inevitability? Everything seems to run just how it should, in spite of the kind of people we're dealing with, in spite of the unusual circumstances, in spite of the many, many possibilities that could factor into such a situation. Yet, still, there's definitely life in it. Despite the basic subject matter, even throughout there's a sense of love and hope, even as things are reeled off that should destroy or at least decrease that feeling. There is no major excitement here; no great big chases or shootouts or big, burly FBI agents (Matt Craven plays the lead agent, and is a quiet, average sort of guy). No big heroes or monstrous villains.
While I am in some ways reluctant to reveal the nature of the plot, the great majority of the movie IS centered on it, so it's difficult to avoid. Wayne Hays (Robert Redford) is a successful businessman married to Eileen Hays (Helen Mirren) who leaves for work one morning, promising his wife to be home at six, and he doesn't show. Eileen calls him angrily hoping he's on the way, apologizes to their guests for his absence and then sits alone waiting for him to return. When the hours stretch too far for her, she calls the police and reports him missing. They soon find his car, no signs of struggle or break-in, with the paper he stopped to get sitting in the back with his bag.
Now we are back to that morning, and we see what Wayne saw--a man approaches his car and introduces himself as Arnold Mack (Willem DaFoe), saying he knew Wayne years ago. He has a manilla envelope and says he was told to show the contents to Wayne. Inside are pictures of Eileen at their pool, which, of course, is not something Wayne is happy to see. Arnold uses this as leverage to kidnap Wayne, and now we know for certain where it is he went that morning. The rest of the movie follows Arnold leading Wayne to a cabin in the woods where his employers are waiting to ransom him, and the parallel of Eileen and the two grown children who make up Wayne's family as they try to meet the demands and process that Arnold requires. We see repeatedly signs that this story is further ahead, as multiple days are spoken of and gone through, while Arnold and wayne are still making their way through the woods that first day. They discuss their pasts on a low level, but nothing terribly revealing about Wayne comes out--or even all that revealing about Arnold.
Even in Eileen's story, while we learn that Wayne had an affair with an employee which has ended--and then that it continued in some fashion afterward, we still don't learn an awful lot about the characters. Yet, these three are so stellar at their craft, we feel we know and care about all three--yes, three--of them very honestly. Where the story goes from here, as I say, feels inevitable, yet is not necessarily what you do or do not expect. It simply is, by virtue of this cold, quiet, minimalistic approach to the plot, writing and filming. It moves fairly quickly, despite the seemingly slow pacing. It's an interesting balance, as things continue to happen yet it seems to be moving in real time at the same time. Perhaps it's a balance between the two timelines, but it feels more like it was just exquisitely crafted; it feels as if someone crossed a movie like In the Bedroom with Ransom, maintained the essential feel of In the Bedroom, as a serious, well-acted, quiet drama, but kept the sort of hopeful, "it's just a movie, even though it feels pretty real," sort of tone that most engaging big-budget thrillers hold. We don't ever feel patronized as viewers, like they're trying to perfectly explain the process of kidnapping and negotiating to us, or like the characters are bigger-than-life caricatures instead of actual characters, yet we don't get that oppressive feeling that a realistic drama tends to have. It was very interesting to see and feel this, and I was quiet pleased--even if I am biased by my appreciation of Willem DaFoe and Robert Redford--and now Helen Mirren, who I don't belive I had seen an awful lot of before--though I do have Gosford Park to look forward to still.