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DRAGONFLY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Kevin Costner, Joe Morton, Ron Rifkin, Linda Hunt, Kathy Bates
Director: Tom Shadyac
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: July 30, 2002

“If we can create this world with what we imagine, why not the next?”

“So you’re saying, belief…”

“It gets us there.”

Film ***1/2

Such movies work so well based on a viewer’s ability to simply believe, and Dragonfly is not only a movie that works well, but it astounds and absorbs as it tells its haunting story. I saw the movie twice in its theatrical run simply because I was completely touched by this story, especially its astonishingly weeper of an ending. Audiences responded to the picture, but for reasons that remain inexplicable to me, critics bashed the movie, mostly for being a supposed knock-off of The Sixth Sense, and let me state right now that while this film carries with it a certain supernatural tone, Dragonfly is first and foremost a love story, where as M. Night Shaymalan’s film was more of a modern day ghost story with a moody tone. To elaborate more, the story of Dragonfly is about lost love, and how one man is simply unable to carry on in life accepting his loss.

Kevin Costner stars, in a strongly convincing performance, as Joe Darrow, a Chicago medical doctor who is in despairing grief over the recent death of his wife, Emily (Susanna Thompson), which occurred while she was helping townspeople of Venezuela elude a harsh rainstorm. What stuns everybody is the fact that instead of grieving like anyone would after a loss, he continues to work, sometimes twenty four hour shifts. Even refusing at the wish of his boss to take some time off, Joe puts in double time looking after the young patients that Emily tendered to before she died, feeling that he owes her that much.

It isn’t too long before Joe starts experiencing some strange events, most especially his frequent sightings of drawings of what appear to be a dragonfly. Since Emily carried a birthmark on her back that resembled a dragonfly, Joe starts to suspect that she is somehow trying to communicate with him. This causes Joe to behave erratic towards the people he knows, who are all sorely unconvinced by what Joe curiously believes.

As Joe encounters more and more clues to where it is his wife may be communicating to him from. He travels to Venezuela in the film’s final act, with is nothing short of unforgettable. It leads to a startling revelation that I will dare not spoil, except that it will most likely make your jaw drop with amazement.

Dragonfly is as absorbing and stunning as movies can get. Fueled by a strong performance from Kevin Costner, and a superbly haunting story that is, at heart, very spiritual, this is one masterful work that will require a certain level of belief, and the reward will be noting short of pure astonishment.

Avoid what all the critics said, for I find this to be one of the first great entries of this year.

Video ***1/2

A pure quality video job is at hand here from the folks at Universal, who deliver their usual best with this nearly flawless transfer. The anamorphic picture quality is for the most part crisp and sharp, and displaying uniquely vibrant color resolutions. The presentation suffers only briefly during a few darkly lit scenes, which appear a bit soft and even a little grainy. But this hardly distracts from the enjoyment, as this transfer is purely good as in the Universal tradition.  

Audio ***1/2

Universal delivers a quite strong audio presentation with this 5.1 audio track. The movie does include its share of jump-scenes that are enhanced to full effect, and certain settings provide impressive audio pick up in various areas. Dialogue delivery is of good normal quality, too, making this a most pleasantly surprising audio transfer.

Features ***

Some nice added bonuses here, including a running commentary by director Tom Shadyac, a Spotlight On Location featurette, several deleted scenes, an interview with author Betty Eadie on her actual near-death experience. Also includes a trailer and some DVD-Rom content.

Summary:

If you have a big enough heart, and a strong ability to believe, like the lead character in the movie, Dragonfly is one remarkable journey of a movie you can’t afford to miss.