Review by Michael Jacobson
Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Hunnam
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: March 18, 2003
whole experience is so far out of my normal range of things.”
are smart thrillers and there are dumb thrillers, but Abandon is the
worst kind…the dumb thriller that thinks it’s a smart one.
In actuality, it’s a movie that needs to see the Wizard…it doesn’t
have a brain, a heart, or courage.
was bored and impatient while watching the movie. After, when I learned that the writer/director of this
picture was Stephen Gaghan, who earned an Oscar for the screenplay to Traffic,
I had to add depression. For my
sanity, I’m going to tell myself that this adapted screenplay was something he
did in school and left untouched in his desk until now. If you know differently, don’t tell me…I don’t want to
takes place on a college campus. The
kids are supposed to be ultra-smart. We
know because they throw around references to Zoaraster and anti-globalization.
But they’re meaningless buzz words.
Other things exist only for flavor…a rave party that drags on and on
and has no effect on the narrative, guidance counselor sessions, and of course,
everybody working on theses. It’s
an absurd game of pick-up sticks with college clichés.
Did anybody who makes a film about college life ever actually experience
it, or were they so shut away that they write screenplays about what they think
any rate, the film’s mystery, if you want to call it that, centers around the
disappearance of a music student named Embry Langam (Hunnam).
He’s made out to be the heir apparent to Puccini; a genius who (wow!)
gives performances under the stage instead of on top it, has a ready-made
Leopold tousled hair look, and talks in arrogant gibberish, but apparently
doesn’t know enough to have his choir members hold their music up high instead
of down at belly level so that their heads aren’t dropped and closing off
a big performance, and right before graduation, he disappeared without a trace.
Is he dead? Considering he
left his financial assets untouched and a pair of unused plane tickets, that’s
a good guess. But then again, he
was a goofy artist, so pulling a vanishing act wouldn’t be out of character
for him…a great relief to the plot, because without that, there’s no real
story. Detective Wade Handler (Bratt)
is assigned to the two year mystery, and he decides to focus on Embry’s
girlfriend Katie (played by Katie Holmes…easy to remember).
film is about an hour and a half. Its
story could have been told in 30 minutes. There’s
more padding here than in a bulletproof vest factory.
Sequences that serve no purpose are lingered over.
Flashbacks that disrupt the narrative have little importance, and though
they’re easy to follow, they don’t flow in and out of the storyline with
ease. It’s almost as if Gaghan
hoped to stumble across some style by accident.
I’m guessing the padding is because most modern thrillers clock in at about 90
minutes. Only a few masters like
Hitchcock could really get away with a 2 hour running time.
This drawn out film seems to wallow in tedium a few times too often in
order to make a picture for the short attention span generation.
If there’s one audience this movie is NOT for, it’s those with short
like Katie Holmes, but this is kind of thankless role that Gaghan tries to make
juicy with a nice trump card here and there.
Time and time again I imagined Ms. Holmes asking, “What’s my
motivation?” only to have her director answer, “I’ll try to give you one
in the editing room.”
Bratt brings a nice, well rounded approach to what is essentially a clichéd cop
role. He manages to bring a little
more soul to the part than is called for.
movie made me restless. It was
ludicrous enough to merit a raised eyebrow or two, but took itself too seriously
for laughter. I might have
preferred that. By the time it
dragged its heels listlessly towards a conclusion I figured out long in advance,
I wasn’t feeling a bit of suspense. Except
for the anticipation of the end credits and finally getting my life back.
is a top notch anamorphic transfer from Paramount (a pan & scan version is
also available; if you want to see this movie, avoid it because certain
‘clues’ are newspaper clippings that run the full width of the screen).
The film has many great settings that are well photographed and filled
with detail, as well as a strong range of lighting schemes from bright to
dismally dark…all of it plays with sharpness and clarity, and good natural
coloring. No distortions, grain, or
evidences of compression mar the viewing experience.
5.1 mix is satisfying, though amusingly enough, even the sound sometimes
represents the movie’s problems. If
you need to pad a scene, layer sounds like music, nondescript dialogue and
singing over drawn out images, and you’ve got nothing that looks like
something. That’s the fault of
the director, though, not the audio, and for the most part, this plays out well,
with good dynamic range, dialogue clarity and selective but effective use of the
.1 channel and surrounds.
extras are generous enough, starting with a commentary by Stephen Gaghan and DP
Matthew Libatique. Gaghan also
lends commentary to some deleted and extended scenes. Rounding out are a standard production featurette and
trailers for this movie and The Four Feathers.