out of 4
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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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