Sunday, 5 August 2007
The Forgotten (2004) dir. Joseph Ruben
Starring Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary Sinise
After watching “Premonition” earlier this week, I was pleased to come across “The Forgotten” on television last night. They make a good comparison. Both are high concept thrillers, with a dash of the supernatural. Both are star vehicles for actresses of similar star power (Sandra Bullock and Julianne Moore). Both films are flawed but “The Forgotten” trumps “Premonition” because of a series of fantastic reveals in the second half of the film that take it to another level.
Julianne Moore plays Telly Paretta, married to Jim Paretta (Anthony Edwards). Fourteen months ago their son Sam was killed in a plane accident and the grief has never left Telly. But now mysterious and unexplainable things start happening to her memories of Sam, items that Sam owned disappear, Sam’s image vanishes from photos, home videos are erased. Telly thinks it’s Jim punishing her for her lengthy grieving, but when she confronts him about it, suddenly Jim, himself, has no memory of Sam. She seeks the comfort of another parent, Ash (Dominic West) and together they go a search for their lost children.
The set up is similar to “Premonition”. Sandra Bullock thinks her husband has died in a car accident until he appears before her alive and well the next day, with no memory of an accident. She too appears to be experiencing some sort of divine intervention that no one else around her is subject to. Both characters go on their own journey to unravel the mystery.
BEWARE SPOILERS AHEAD...
Where “The Forgotten” moves away from “Premonition” is in the unveiling of the grand story at play. As Julianne peels back the layers of the onion, she discovers a conspiracy involving the NSA and ... SPOILERS ALERT... aliens. Director Joseph Ruben uses clever direction and camera angles to plant this seed in our brains before making its big reveal. Many of the establishing exterior shots are shot from high above in the sky, we see low angle shots of the clouds in the sky, characters have subconscious desires to look up in the air and an ever-present wind seems to have a character of its own.
The characters in the film are indeed being watched from above, but by whom? And why? By the very nature of the film and its point of the view, we can only know the answers to these questions by exposition. Since the film gives us only the information the protagonists have, there will inevitably be a scene where the characters have to tell us what exactly is going on. Both LOST and Harry Potter do it. I call it the “Hardy Boys” scene, or the “Scooby Doo” scene. These scenes always disappoint.
I saw the film in a theatre back in 2004, and I will always remember the scene in the cabin, just as the handcuffed NSA agent is about to tell us the big secret, with a gigantic bang he gets blasted, through the roof, into the air and presumably into a wormhole in space. This comes so out of left field it left the audience completely silent. It was awesome. The scene when Alfre Woodard gets blasted into the air is even better. These scenes are so cool, they make up for all the film's faults.
We never get to know what this other alien world is like, or what these aliens look like. And I don’t need to know. You’re watching the film for the concept alone. Telly and Ash are cardboard characters at best. We don’t get to know them or what makes them tick at all. It’s all about the cool scenes, the misdirections and the big reveals.
Where “Premonition” turned the engine off and coasted into its third act, “The Forgotten” took a sharp left turn and kicked it into another gear. I do wish the plot cohesively stuck together at the end, but I was still appreciative of the ride. Enjoy.
Buy it here: The Forgotten