This was me when I originally saw the trailer:
"Halle Berry's in a movie? cool"
"Produced by Robert Zemeckis? double cool"
"Robert Downey JR? Why not, he was great in US Marshals"
"Woah! A cool transition shot through a window!"
"Nice editing, building tension and interest."
"Story looks cool (on Penelope Cruz's line); I think I.ll watch this"
And then a few weeks pass where the film Gothika is only on the back of my mind and we arrive at today: opening day. Was I excited today as I was when I originally saw the trailer? Not really, I missed out on Master and Commander: Far Side of the World last week so I would have preferred to watch that. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the show time and having seen Cat in the Hat earlier today, Gothika was the only choice. I walk in and the first shot I see after some neat opening credits is Penelope Cruz with an opening little monologue, in mid-discussion with Halle Berry. What she's saying is a very good attention grabber as you think she's speaking about one thing, but turns out to be something different. We have the discussion end a little furiously with Cruz attacking Berry and we cut to our next shots following Berry down halls of her workplace (an institution for the committed) just to fit in more credits. Around this point, after we have her walking for far too long, interest starts to drop and doesn't pick up until the DP decides to play with lighting. Not to give the story away, but some forced character development is seen, after which Berry runs into the freaky person on the bridge as in the trailer. A few fast cuts to scare the audience and a complete blackout and all of a sudden, Berry is in a cell.
This is where the story begins as Miranda Gray (Berry) is trying to figure out what's going on and why she's locked up. Not many answers, but many questions are given. Not necessarily a bad thing, but they are shown through an extremely overused style of flash cuts and loud sounds. At this point, the viewer hopes that this will not be a pointless thrill ride because the editors know how to add flashes and 2 frame shots.
At this point, I can pretty much end with a simple synopsis and start with the problems of the film.
The shooting style is not consistent. One moment we are treated to some very nice and thought out camera angles and movements by Mathew Libatique (think Phone Booth) and the next moment, a barrage of uninteresting shots that just dull the narrative. All lenses seem to be deep focus and the camera man (either on purpose or not) has trouble focusing correctly and at many times the subject is blurred for no apparent reason.
The sound in this film can be found in any B horror movie with the screeching violins to build tension or high-pitched squeals trying to scare the audience. The wanted effect is achieved most of the time (the girl sitting beside me jumped and punched her boyfriend on one such occasion) but the repeated use becomes nullifying and just annoys the viewer. Half way through the movie I stopped caring about the thrills and just wanted the movie to get on with the story.
There is too much chunky dialogue that rarely has a point. It just sounds like babble that is supposed to bring insight into the characters (discussions between Berry and Downey), but fails horribly. At one point, we are introduced to a new angle on the whole situation, but it is swiftly abandoned before the next scene.
The story is easily predictable. It's almost as if everything is spelled out in front of you, and all you need is to squint your eyes slightly to see it clearly. The last forty minutes or so I was just sitting there waiting for the movie to end. Unfortunately, there is no trick ending, at least not a good one that will have one go, "damn, I did not see that one coming", but more of a, "ya, big whoop. We knew that was going to happen."
The desperate final scene that just tries to open a doorway to a sequel. We all know these, when a scene is added that is not needed (I would have preferred a simple blackout and credits after Downey says, "I'm sorry."), but alas, we are given a scene between two, now fruitless characters that doesn't really go anywhere until the last few cuts where it suggests that it may not be over for our main character, Miranda.
Maybe not, maybe it's not over, but I what I CAN tell you is that the sitting was over for me and I was thoroughly disappointed at the wasted opportunity to have a smart thriller. I was (and still am) even more upset because I had watched this instead of Master and Commander and actually paid for it (I work in a theatre and see movies for free) because it was opening night.
Save this for a boring weekend when you're tired enough not to predict the entire movie.
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