Cons:weak story, cliched plot lines, tired dialogue
The Bottom Line: The Clearing is an avoidable film about the kidnapping of a business executive and his wife's pursuit of the truth.
We have seen this plot many times before. A family member goes missing, everyone fears the worst. He has been kidnapped, but the reasons are not immediately clear, and we go through the motions of the FBI becoming involved, and the search commencing for said victim. In this version of the story, Robert Redford stars as an Executive of a car rental agency, who has worked his way up from nothing, to being a man feared by the entire industry. He is truly a man that embodies the power he has gained, and Redford is good in this role. Defoe serves as the kidnapper, who through a chance encounter with Redford's character years earlier, has become deeply involved in his life during the present. Thus kicks of a story that tells more about the characters involved than their actions, and the audience is kept at arms length as the plot unfolds in front of us.
Recommend this product?
Wayne (Redford) is married to a very understanding wife, played by Helen Mirren. Now I actually found this to be the role that highlighted the film, which does little to bring very much drama to its audience. Instead it gives us a lesson in how not to evolve a story, and how to telegraph how each following scene will unfold. Mirren does a good job at working with what very little she has to work with, and when the script allows her to be emotional, it is clear to everyone why her career has lasted for so long. On the other side of things, we have Defoe who has become an old pro at playing the "bad guy" in films, but he too is ill-used in this film. Instead of having his character evolve, he is dragged down by the lack of traits, and the missing background story that could have greatly improved his role.
With an all-star cast of Redford, Mirren, and Dafoe, I had thought that this would be a taught thriller that would keep my attention until the very end. Instead, I was presented with a film which became tryingly predictable from one scene to the next. The simultaneous story telling from the two points of views (Redford in his kidnapping, and Mirren in her pursuit of her husband) is really the only thing that kept this story interesting. Any cliche that you can think of is explored in this film, and by the end you become disappointed that you sat through the full 2 hours of this film. The story works on a slim time-frame, and does have parts that can be deemed "dramatic", but on the whole it really fails to deliver on its promise of being entertaining.
The Clearing is really an example of where films have gone wrong recently, and a lesson to be learned from in regards to keeping more from the audience before the films ending becomes apparent. The film is intended to seem like something that could happen to each one of us, and indeed is succeeds in making us feel vulnerable in that fashion, but it doesn't go the extra step to making this film watchable a second time. The role was age appropriate for all of those involved, and if they had worked on the plot, as well as the main script, I think that this film could have offered us a lot more. In the end though, it didn't satisfy me, and there were several very serious holes in the story that were never quite explained to me. In regards to viewing this film, I only recommend watching it late at night on television, otherwise you need to avoid it.
Pieter Jan Brugge
Pieter Jan Brugge (story)
Runtime: 95 min
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