A pretty solid movie that had a chance to be a bit more than the mere suspense/thriller it’s advertised as, but it ends up falling a little bit short. In the end, it’s a nice piece of genre cinema that has frequent introspective and arty touches. There’s plenty of Hitchcock fodder thrown around but it’s done in a manner that is very elegant, and seems more organic and less forced than simplistic plot devices. I guess there should be a lot of credit given to the actors as everyone seems to inhabit their own space and maintain an equal level of importance.
I’m not familiar with Juan Jose Campanella’s work at all (thought if this film is any indication, it would be wise of me to fix that) but I did find it somewhat amusing to see that he had directed multiple episodes of the two Law and Order spinoffs as the earliest sequences of this film recall the “glory years” of the original series. There’s no denying know that we’re seeing something of a simulation of Jerry Orbach and his deadpan, no-nonsense style of observing in several characters. While we never get the same level of back story (understandable since Campanella didn’t have years to flesh out his characters) we still see similar tragic shades.
The most obvious shade of tragedy is that of the film’s central protagonist, Benjamin Esposito. Now retired and living alone, Esposito decides to devote his time to dramatizing a rape and murder investigation that haunted him several years ago. It becomes evident over time though that the investigation’s emotional power over him wasn’t just from the crime itself but the frustration and longings he held for his co-worker, Irene Hastings. In a wonderful touch, Esposito is hopelessly in love yet manages to overlook and ignore any advances made by Irene. As one of the characters says, he’s simply waiting for a miracle.
I mention this little complex between Esposito and Hasting because it is one I can personally relate to and one that isn’t explored enough in films. Usually the “hopeless romantic” reads every potential advance and follows it to no end. However, Esposito fails at this. He’s deeply in love with Irene but that doesn’t mean he’s able to comprehend the significance behind every conversation he has with his crush. In other words, just because one is oblivious doesn’t mean they don’t care.
Eventually and perhaps, inevitably, the story refocuses its gaze to the progression of the actual investigation. I don’t want to ruin anything, but the final thirty minutes or so are a total waste. It made sense as I sat in a theater surrounded by elderly folks who oooh’d and awww’d at every plot point that the film would take far too much time to tie up each and every loose end. Personally though, I’m able to forgive the film for its final indulgence in to the more conventional storyline when there’s plenty of poignant and heartbreaking moments surrounding the “progression.”