I reviewed this film recently with a specific question in mind. At this writing, this film is ranked by IMDB viewers as the second best film ever made. The SECOND BEST EVER MADE!
Why? This was my question.
The acting is good. Robbins and Freeman are quality craftsmen in the Caine and Hackman tradition. But these are not truly great actors and in any case, they are only asked to play appealing persons, deliberately less-dimensional than real (as opposed to believably hyper-real which is much harder).
The director is a first-timer, and it shows. There is simple framing and staging here. In fact, there seems to be a deliberate strategy to be as plain as possible. And that is the core of where I think people find the appeal of this film.
The story is very tight in the sense of narrative flow. All the chunks are the same size, with no fancy rhythm. There is no distracting backstory. No element has irony, not writing, acting, shooting, even the score.
Now for me, I expect and demand art in my films -- that's why I register this as plain. But I think it is well liked because it is totally without pretense. It is straight and honest; people seem hungry for honesty, and this has the appearance of what they need at just the right time.
Is a film great because it merely fulfills? I hope many people think not, and dream that this film moves down the list to be replaced with more intelligent efforts.
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