Preview by: Jack Foley
THIS years Sundance Film Festival was notable for many
things, not least of which was the fact that its founder, Robert
Redford, premiered a film there for the first time.
The Clearing, which was presented as a work in progress, attracted
considerable acclaim from visitors, for its mature and considered
approach to its subject matter.
Redford stars as a wealthy, self-made businessman who is kidnapped
by a disgruntled, former associate (Willem Dafoe) and held captive
in a remote forest. His wife (Helen Mirren), must work with the
FBI to deliver the ransom.
The festival website declared in its pre-publicity that a
marvellous precision, an attention to detail, and a subtlety distinguish
all aspects of The Clearing, the debut feature of Pieter Jan Brugge.
The film isnt so much about good and evil as it is about
class, individuality, and family, and is driven by a set of first-rate
performances and a finely wrought screenplay.
As with all good movies, The Clearing is also said to build,
cumulatively, to a powerful and emotional resolution that will
resonate long after the final curtain.
ROBERT Redford may have received a favourable response to his
independent feature, The Clearing, when it appeared at this year’s
Sundance Film Festival, but the film has failed to strike such
a big chord with critics in America.
Variety referred to it as ‘a character-driven
suspenser that engages the mind more than the emotions, but neither
While the Hollywood Reporter felt that ‘Brugge
and Haythe fail to satisfactorily pull off either the thriller
or the marital deconstruction’.
And the Chicago Tribune felt that ‘The
Clearing is just an OK thriller, full of standard scenarios and
Premiere Magazine even noted that ‘regardless
of what The Clearing wants to be at any given moment - wrenching,
thought-provoking, surprising, heartbreaking - all it ever is
is tastefully lifeless’.
Of the positive reviews, Village Voice wrote
that ‘with the emotional reins of the movie firmly in her
grasp, Helen Mirren never condescends to her character, investing
her with an unshakable poise that unnerves even as it reassures
those around her’.
And Entertainment Weekly felt that ‘the
story is Redford's, but with [Mirren's] trademark brisk practicality
and ease in her own skin, she ransoms the actor from the constrictions
of his self-definition as a romantic movie star’.
Rolling Stone even felt that ‘the pleasures
of this endeavour, directed with a keen eye for detail by Pieter
Jan Brugge, come from what the actors bring to the material’.
And LA Weekly opined that ‘Redford and
Mirren, two masters of contained emotion, keep us peering intently
at their faces, searching for clues - not as to whether Wayne
will survive, but whether this marriage will’.
But Reelviews felt that ‘the benefits
of seeing this movie may not be worth the patience necessary to
get through it’.
And One Guy’s Opinion lamented that ‘stately,
reserved and colourless, it can be described as serious and respectable,
but also turgid and rather dull. Its inveterate good manners are
ultimately its undoing’.