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4 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Clearing, The
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by EricDSnider

"An intelligent kidnap thriller with superlative acting."
5 stars

The histrionics normally associated with kidnap dramas are not to be found in "The Clearing." No one screams "Give me back my son!" into a phone, nor are there risky ransom-exchange scenarios, nor are there trite explanations for the evil-doers' grudges.

Instead, we have a mature, character-based film in which kidnapping is the story, but the people are the substance. Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and Willem Dafoe give some of the most thorough performances of their distinguished careers, and first-time director Pieter Jan Brugge (who has worked for many years as a producer) makes a riveting debut as a filmmaker.

It is Redford's character, a successful Pittsburgh businessman named Wayne Hayes, who is kidnapped. The doer is Arnold Mack (Dafoe), who says he worked in the same office as Hayes years ago, when Hayes was on his way up the ladder. Mack, whom we see early with a wife and what looks like an average home life, says he's only the hired gun in the operation, following the instructions of an unnamed group that wants Hayes for unnamed reasons.

Hayes' wife, Eileen (Mirren), an aging housewife who has not let her financial well-being turn her into a pampered layabout, must endure more torment than her abducted husband. Two FBI agents (Matt Craven and Gwen McGee) move into her home for the duration, and their investigation into Wayne's personal and business affairs reveals information Eileen was content not knowing. One is tempted to wonder whether the Hayeses' marriage will last even after Wayne is released.

Redford turns 67 this year, and this is the first time he's ever looked it. His face, often seen in close-up, is craggy and expressive, weathered but still full of life and charisma. It's the face of a man who has everything he wants in the world and has worked hard to get it, which I suppose is true of both the actor and the character.

Meanwhile, Mirren exudes dignity as the strong, wounded Eileen, a character whose aloofness hides her vulnerability. Her emotional moments -- subdued, controlled and agonizing -- are pitch-perfect; Mirren embraces the role so fearlessly and completely that she ought to be studied by acting students.

Justin Haythe's screenplay pulls a neat trick with the story's timeline that I won't fully reveal here. We flashback a number of times to prior points in Wayne and Eileen's marriage, but there's something else going on, too, something rather ingenious. Note that the story is clearly divided into two distinct and separate settings: Eileen and the FBI agents and her two grown children (Melissa Sagemiller and Alessandro Nivola) deal with ransom notes back home, while Wayne and Mack walk toward a distant rendezvous point in the woods. Where the movie leads us is interesting, but not nearly as compelling as the journey there.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8503&reviewer=247
originally posted: 07/18/04 20:40:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/07/11 brian Huge plot holes, meandering plot, but well acted. 3 stars
12/11/10 millersxing Why didn't Redford just speed off? Or honk the horn to signal distress? Dumb dumb dumb. 2 stars
4/08/08 mr.mike Kept me on edge , with perhaps Redford's best-ever performance. 4 stars
5/17/07 ES unimpressive 3 stars
4/21/07 mb Left With The Sensation That The Movie Was About A Killer 4 stars
9/02/06 Killian Louder Your reviewer, Erik Childress is an ass. He seems to have an attention span of a 4 year old 5 stars
7/20/06 Frank Rountree nothing to brag about, good story, good acting 3 stars
8/20/05 The Big Toe Pretty bad 2 stars
7/03/05 P. Zasada Movie dragged on 3 stars
5/22/05 zushio this film set up the audience for a surprise ending that wasn't there; waste of cast. 2 stars
4/16/05 Ruth Migdal Rambling, unfocussed, but amazingly gripping. 4 stars
1/21/05 Tjalda L. Schiel What, where, when, how, huh? B-o-o-o-ring. 2 stars
12/17/04 sue terrible 1 stars
11/22/04 Ed Wood, Jr. So slight and needlessly deliberate, it seems like a short film padded to feature length. 3 stars
11/15/04 kym terrible!! nothing thrilling about it 2 stars
8/05/04 Mix Master Mason Just average. 3 stars
8/02/04 ownerofdajoint well done and worthy seeinf if you're a REDFORD fan..dafoe is creepy great... 4 stars
7/24/04 Bill Teommey writing, acting great. Story a let down. 3 stars
7/21/04 JH The great acting just wasn't enough to carry this movie.... 3 stars
7/19/04 Suzanne review was all hype - movie was boring 1 stars
7/17/04 Gary Superb film. Script, acting, story, music, all of it gripping and moving. 5 stars
7/12/04 Elizabeth Performances worth seeing, but ultimately disappointing. 3 stars
7/10/04 Carrie The acting makes this worth seeing. There is tension through most of the movie. 4 stars
7/10/04 Uncle Phucker This had some great acting. Very low key. Enjoyable but nothing you'd buy on dvd. 4 stars
7/02/04 Ray Not bad 3 stars
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  02-Jul-2004 (R)
  DVD: 09-Nov-2004



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