19 September 2002 | bob the moo
Cinematically impressive but a touch too arty for mainstream tastes
Working class Clay travels into the city to meet his wealthy half-brother Vincent for the first time. Their shared father has just been killed. Shortly after Gus arrives, Vincent announces that he must fly out of town overnight and Gus drives him to the airport. On the drive back Vincent sets off a car bomb to kill Gus, however Gus survives despite being badly disfigured. Believing him to be Vincent the surgeons rebuild his face and try to bring his memories back. However Gus finds he is now accused of murder (as Vincent) and that he has only strange dreams about a possible past life.
I have seen this twice in an attempt to try and break into the deeper issues that it alludes to. I have not been totally successful but this not to say that I think this is a bad film. The plot involves the complexity of personality. I first watching it thinking it sounded like a good set-up for a thriller if you think the same then you may be let down. The plot is more about how our personalities are formed are we an ID picture, are we who we chose to be? The split personalities and the dual aspects of the plot are best seen in the casting of the two main roles. At first I thought it was a lazy art-house trick to cast a black and a white actor as `similar brothers' but the metaphor is used quite well.
The problem with the film is that the inner themes are not fully explained (pr at least I found them hard to reach fully). I know roughly what it was saying but I would find it very hard to explain. This means that if you can't get inside the plot you are left with what's on the surface and this isn't enough. It moves slowly and appears to go nowhere in particular. But focus on the bigger picture and this will give you something to think about even if it fails to grip you for the whole running time.
Haysbert is pretty good if fact all the cast are OK bu they all seem to know they're in an arty movie. The result is that they talk slowly, say big meaningful sentences and stare into the distance regularly. What saves this film is the direction. The use of black and white is superb, the framing of every shot is interesting and I was honestly transfixed by the bleak beauty of every shot. Things that would have been ordinary in colour are fascinating in this bleak frame. On top of this the music is good too lots of classic music gives a cold, unsure feel to the film but the use of `ring of fire' is brave and, happily, comes off.
Overall is this for everyone? No. Is it worth a try? Yes. On my second viewing I feel that it has layers I'm yet to understand and fully appreciate. The visual aspect of the film alone is worth a watch. Although I suspect that the plot is not as deep or as clever as it thinks it is, I know that there is plenty ot be discovered about this. Give it a shot I did and now am about to go and give it a 3rd watch.