This film kind of depresses me, as it was an opportunity to make a fairly strong Noir with a mature cast, yet really comes up short when assessed in it's entirety.
In terms of story, Twilight does not have much going on. It is mainly about the characters, but the slow pace of the feature and lack of new creativity in the film makes it hard to get a grasp around. The actors do their part, but they are the main focus of the film at the expense of an interesting story which could be thrilling or original in terms of neo-noir. The slow movement of the film and lack of general story dynamics meant that the entertainment value of the feature ended up being very limited. When I say that, I mean that the drama did not involve viewers deeply with the complex characters and there was a sense of creativity which just did not reach its potential, meaning that the film ended up as a dull and rather lifeless experience. You wouldn't expect it from a film with such a talented cast, but the overly subtle nature of the drama in the story limited the kind of effect it could have on viewers very severely.
Twilight unfolds like a stage play with limited settings and subtle acting. It has a lot more potential than it uses, especially considering its fair budget of $35 million. The film feels more like a play than a piece of neo-noir cinema which is a shame because the story feels like it could fall into that area yet the visual style of the film maintained little to no elements commonly associated with the genre. There was no edgy cinematography or creative lighting, the entire film just combined a mix of conventional cinematography techniques with theatrical staging. There was certainly a lot decent scenery in the film, but the settings are uncreative because they are so limited. There could have been more that Twilight explored, but it limited itself solely to characters while adhering to conventions all too common in neo-noir stories which boasted a lack of originality while there was not enough of a visual style to make up for it. Robert Benton defies the neo-noir potential of Twilight and reduces it to a repetitive circle of scenes featuring uninvolving dialogue and dull plotting which is illuminated only slightly by the performances of the cast. I expected more from a film featuring this many talented people, but the subtle nature of the film ensured that they remained distant from the audience and the dramatization no matter how hard they worked. There is simply nothing new to learn from Twilight that viewers cannot pick up on from countless other neo-noir films that are both superior and inferior, and I just found that it was hard to walk away from Twilight without feeling much other than boredom.
Despite the subtlety of the drama dragging the film down, the restrained performances of the actors are still thoroughly entertaining.
Paul Newman delivers another strong leading performance in Twilight. In the role of Harry Cross, the aging Paul Newman reflects his somewhat frail stature in his character, yet his strength as an actor is all too clear. Every step he takes could be his last and so his performance maintains a certain edgy vulnerability to it, and he always hints at the idea that he maintains some kind of hidden past full of crime and emotional suffering. He plays at the part in a gentle manner while increasing his tension to only the right levels during certain scenes without ever ascending over the top. His performance is restrained yet charismatic and likable which makes him the right fit for the leading role in the story. It is nice to see Paul Newman standing up and continuing to dispense justice as an actor well into his old age, particularly considering that he is a classical actor and noir is a classical genre which means that there is some nostalgic entertainment that comes from them crossing paths.
It is great to see Susan Sarandon in the role of the manipulative Catherine Ames. As the anagonist of a neo-noir thriller, Susan Sarandon did a great job of delivering a femme fatale by playing mindgames in the character and messing around with both the viewers and the characters. She really easily conveys the idea that she knows more than she is letting on which makes her one of the more intriguing figures of the story. While a lot of what happens with her is not shown or left to the implications, her relevance to it all remains very clear. She evokes a sense of nostalgia to other female villains from noir or neo-noir films such as Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, albeit with absence of the heavy emphasis on sex appeal. It all falls into her ability to stand confident in stature and deliver her lines with strength which she has no problem of emphasising. Susan Sarandon easily stands out in Twilight even when stuck with boring material simply because she manages to always make herself interesting whenever she is on screen.
Gene Hackman also makes a fine effort. Although his role is limited mainly to a very small amount of screen time and interactions predominantly with Paul Newman and little else, the two stir up quite a bit of drama with the effect of their chemistry. It easily sparks up a sense of intrigue for the story and although it is dragged down by many things, the sights of these veteran actors going at it against each other is clearly interesting. Gene Hackman makes a fine addition to the cast in Twilight, and it brings out further strength in Paul Newman's performance.
The supporting effort of Reese Witherspoon is also a strong one.
But despite the easy talents of the strong cast in Twilight and its potential, it ends up going in repetitive circles with minimal creativity or effective drama due to limits in the writing department and fails to deal justice to the genre it wants desperately to fall into.