Nowadays everyone talks about Charlize Theron. Her new movie “North Country” claims she’ll be nominated for the Oscar next year, and who knows, maybe win it again. The thing is I’ve known her as an actress for a long time, and have watched most of her films; but after what “Monster” was, and after who she is now, I feel like going back and analyzing, if she’s just having luck, or if she’s always been a good actress.
With no intention of adulating her, I can declare she’s always played interesting roles. Take “Mighty Joe Young”, Disney’s film, for example. She played the “heroine”, an easy role, and I was a kid but she didn’t look like the everyday heroine, she had managed to achieve a different approach. Next came joining Johnny Depp in the difficult acting journey that was “The Astronaut’s wife”, a movie that sucked in content but delivered in performances.
Besides being dimmed by stronger people that same year in “The Cider House Rules”, 2000 was her strong year, where she left me breathless with her portrayals in “Men of honor” and “The legend of Bagger Bance”; and showed me her dark and betraying side in “The Yards” and “Reindeer Games” (with the great Gary Sinise). So in my quest of “rediscovery”, I found “Trapped”, one of her last movies before her Oscar-film.
The movie is very good, and so is her performance. The traumatized look she obtains in some occasions is horrifying. How her whole body moves, quietly and alert, because her character knows the danger she’s in, but tries hard to be strong and intelligently fight what awaits her. Never has a woman looked so beautiful in underwear but at the same time so disgusting; because there’s no pleasure in her position.
There’s no pleasure at all in this movie. Karen’s (Theron) daughter is kidnapped (data: she’s played by Dakota Fanning two years before she was kidnapped again in “Man on Fire”; if she keeps getting kidnapped in movies she might disappear some day), and no secrets are held. We meet the man who planned the kidnapping, Joe (Kevin Bacon), his partners Marvin (Pruitt Taylor Vince in disturbing mode) and Cheryl (second-billed and unfitted Courtney Love) and their plans; including where they keep the kids, and how and when they take them back to their families.
The group has done the same kidnapping strategy four times, succeeding without being caught; Joe always makes boast of it. What the movie announces is that this time will not be perfect, because Karen is not like the other moms, her husband Will (Stuart Townsend looking as always) is not like the other dads, and more importantly, their daughter Abby is not like the other kids. After the group realizes about this miscalculation, writer Greg Iles’ character development starts functioning.
I don’t know if Iles ever lived it, but the environment seems so real. “How do you pick the families?”, Karen asks Joe. “Well; they have to be rich, the children need to have a permitted age and the mother has to be beautiful”. Eventually, Karen tries to find out why they do it, and as I said, there’s no pleasure, because they don’t have fun doing it.
During these scenes, a tense relationship between Karen and Joe emerges, and in terms of performance, they are nothing but moments to make clear the risky actor Kevin Bacon is, and the dedication he gives to his characters. The way he talks to her, the way he resolves the problems with a look; later (you need to pay close attention), the way he moves his hand when he drives, because he hasn’t slept and can’t control his pulse… The story hidden behind the “why” is very strong, but when the movie decides we should learn it, there’s no intention of an emotional impact, which is another remarkable screenplay detail. It is discovered so unexpectedly that there’s no time to mediate about it; it wouldn’t feel real. Mexican director Luis Mandoki accompanies the environment with a first scene shot in blurry blue, and then creating lots of empty shots of places that are instantly occupied by the characters…Very original.
What is probably not original or mistaken is the resolution. I’m not saying it couldn’t end like that; I’m just saying that because of the movie’s progress, I was expecting something else. Anyway, the typical wins: but that doesn’t diminish the quality of a film.
Filed Under: Movie Reviews