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The Others

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Others

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston
Director: Alejandro Amenabar
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 104 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genre: Horror


*Also starring: James Bentley, Fionnula Flanagan, Elaine Cassidy, Eric Sykes



Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
No Rating Supplied

It's hard not to recommend "The Others." The supernatural thriller, written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar ("Open Your Eyes"), adroitly establishes and maintains a low-key atmosphere of menace. The cinematography, by Javier Aguirresarobe, is as good as I have ever seen and Nicole Kidman gives another in her growing body of fine performances. But the pacing of the story moves from deliberate to downright sluggish and the payoff of the tale left me less than satisfied.

Overall, the film plays like a very high quality version of any number of old "Twilight Zone" episodes where the characters spend a great deal of time wandering about looking afraid and disoriented, only to learn they are actually a child's toy, a military test subject or a department store dummy. Watching those vintage shows and listening to the players chatter, I always wanted to shout, "Get on with it!" As much as I appreciated the atmosphere and acting in "The Others," my reaction was much the same.

Set at an island mansion off the coast of England during World War II, the story focuses on Grace (Kidman), who tends to her children Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) and worries about her husband, Charles (Christopher Eccleston), a missing serviceman. Anne and Nicholas suffer from photosensitivity and Grace patrols the estate with the keys to all 50 doors, protecting the little ones from excess light by making sure that only one door is open at a time.

At the beginning of the film, three servants, Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan), young, mute Lydia (Elaine Cassidy), and Mr. Tuttle (Eric Sykes), an aging gardener, join the family. The two that speak seem agreeable enough at first, but it soon becomes apparent that they know something that Grace does not. To make matters worse, the children are upset: Nicholas is unusually jittery and Anne claims to be seeing ghosts. Grace attempts to blame the troubles on the new arrivals to her home, only to realize that whatever is happening is beyond them.

That's essentially the whole story, with the tension growing until the pivotal moment when everything becomes clear. Earlier, there is an outstanding scene where Grace darts outside, only to be enveloped in fold after fold of shimmering fog. The visuals in the otherworldly sequence, courtesy of Aguirresarobe, are simply astounding.

I also enjoyed the presence of religion, a rarity in films dealing with the supernatural. Grace is a Christian and answers her children's questions about life and death with the assurance of a devout worshiper. When mother is away, though, the kids speculate whether her statements are fact or folklore, just as real children do.

But those nice touches fail to enliven a film that is too slow or make up for a lackluster ending. "The Others" sets out to be a classic ghost story, but fails to grasp that special something that makes such films more than layers of mist.

Copyright © 2001 Edward Johnson-Ott

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