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The Clearing

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Clearing

Starring: Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge
Rated: R
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: July 2004
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Helen Mirren, Melissa Sagemiller, Matt Craven, Alessandro Nivola, Wendy Crewson, Peter Gannon, Geoff McKnight

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

Because of galvanizing performances by seasoned pros Robert Redford and Helen Mirren, this dynamite kidnapping drama is as much of a character study as it is a psychological thriller.

Wayne Hayes (Redford) is a wealthy, successful entrepreneur whose car rental company has emerged as a rival to Hertz and Avis. Semi-retired, he shares a gracious McMansion in suburban Pittsburgh with his wife Eileen (Mirren). It's obvious that, over the past 30 years, their once-loving relationship has become perfunctory. But when, one morning, Wayne is abducted at gunpoint by Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe) a disillusioned former employee, their tranquil world is shattered. As an FBI agent (Matt Craven), literally, takes up residence in her home, Eileen is forced to re-examine her repressed suspicions and marital secrets, particularly when her grown children (Alessandro Nivola and Melissa Sagemiller) gather at her side.

Written by novelist Justin Haythe and producer Pieter Jan Brugge ("The Insider"), who makes his directorial debut, it's structured, within a varying timescape, as a parallel emotional struggle between the kidnap victim and his captor, juxtaposed against the agony of the helpless wife who is left behind. Inspired by an actual kidnapping in the Netherlands, Brugge conceived the complex plotline, centered in deception, and set it against the relevant background of the American dream, delving into the emotional price paid by those who achieve it as well as those who do not. Production designer Chris Gorak and French cinematographer Denis Lenoir heighten the palpable suspense. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Clearing" is an engrossing 8, unflinching in its tension and unconventional in its mystery.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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