Review by Gordon Justesen
Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Alessandro Nivola, Matt Craven,
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 94 Minutes
Release Date: November 9, 2004
never deceived your wife?"
are levels of deception. This is a whopper."
Clearing has the appearance
of a traditional kidnapping thriller, but it's actually one of the more
effective character studies to come around in quite sometime. It's the study of
two men from two very different backgrounds who are put in a crucial situation
due to one's actions. The film also serves as a study of the differences that
lay within the higher class and lower class levels of life.
plays Wayne Hayes, a highly successful company executive who lives quite the
lavish lifestyle that comes with the profession. He lives in an elegant mansion
in the countryside, and is married to longtime supporter, Eileen (Helen Mirren).
Wayne is an accomplished man, but a flawed one nonetheless, and his marriage has
managed to survive even the most trying of times.
On what starts out
like any ordinary day, Wayne is met at gunpoint by a man named Arnold (Willem
Dafoe), at the end of his driveway. Wayne is then led by his kidnapper to a
remote area somewhere in the woods. Arnold's intention is to keep Wayne at
gunpoint until he is given a demanded ransom, which will be handled by the wife.
Why has Arnold
resorted to kidnapping? The reason is simply pure jealousy of a man who has
everything the common person would want in life; success, a loving wife, kids
and endless wealth. Arnold's life is anything but happy. Living with his wife
and her father in a row house somewhere in the city, Arnold is the first to
classify himself as a failure in society, and thinks that a rich man's money
would cure him of the constant depression he experiences.
is struggling to cooperate with the FBI, who is handling the attempt to get back
her husband. Wayne's two grown kids, Jill (Melissa Sagemiller) and Tim
(Alessandro Nivola) are by their mother's side until a resolution presents
itself. One of the things Wayne regrets is the fact that he is just now getting
to know his son and daughter.
During the course
of the kidnapping, the FBI come across certain elements in Wayne's personal
life, including an affair he had with a mistress (Wendy Crewson), which becomes
news to Jill and Tim who never knew of it, because Eileen didn't want them to
know since she thought the issue would never come around again.
Even though the
overall plot scenario of this movie has been done before, this film does weave a
conclusion that will really catch you by surprise. It's certainly not the kind
of outcome I expected to occur. I also found the film's closing moments to be
tremendously effective. When one of the character's fate is about to be sealed
as a result of his actions, the film takes a most unconventional approach at a
conclusion, which is, if anything, totally believable.
The prime success
of The Clearing is the top notch work
of Redford and Dafoe, who play off one another so brilliantly. Redford, who at
67 is finally starting to show signs of aging, slips into the role of Wayne with
downright authenticity. We buy him in the role right from scene one. As for
Dafoe, who were so used to seeing in over the top form, as in Spider-Man,
his subtle performance here is something to be truly appreciated. He makes
Arnold into someone who is a threat, but at the same time becomes one to
This is the
directorial debut from veteran producer Pieter Jan Brugge. One thing's for sure,
Brugge's producing track record (Heat, The
Insider, Bulworth) speaks for itself. Brugge has chosen quite a suiting
piece as his first directing gig, and I feel we will be seeing more from him in
Clearing is an honest and
observant character study that maintains a strong effective feeling right up to
handling left me scratching my head, this time around. While there are moments
in this presentation that should project this into a better average, I seem to
have noticed a number of distracting instances. Since the movie is relatively
short, and the disc isn't packed with a lot of features, the free space
should've allowed for a better presentation. I happen to notice, especially in
some nighttime sequences, a great hint of grain and softness in the picture.
It's a crucial flaw, but thankfully, the rest of the presentation was that of
exceptional picture quality.
Clearing does garner a
striking 5.1 channel performance, although the film itself is a dialogue driven
film, no more and no less. Dialogue delivery is thoroughly well heard, clean and
clear as can be. Several music cues, in addition, are extremely well handled,
making for a most effective listen.
Some basic feats to
go around, including a commentary track with director Pieter Jan Brugge, writer
Justin Haythe and editor Kevin Tent, deleted scenes with optional commentary,
the complete screenplay, and a trailer.