Review by Michael Jacobson
Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack, Alfre Woodard
Director: Iain Softley
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 121 Minutes
Release Date: March 26, 2002
me, the real attraction of K-PAX isn’t the story, even though it’s a
sweet and involving one. The main
pleasure is getting to watch two of our best film actors in top form working
together and bringing out the best in one another.
actors are, of course, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges, and their characters’
relationship makes up the heart of K-PAX, which, like Bridges’ own
successful Starman, is a very human tale about an extra-terrestrial
is he? When Prot (Spacey) first
appears on the scene in a New York train station, his quiet speech about his
travels leads him straight to a psychiatric hospital.
There, he will meet Dr. Mark Powell (Bridges), a good doctor with some
family problems, who tries to get to the bottom of who and what Prot really is.
can only be two possibilities, and reason would tend to favor that Prot is
delusional. To accept the
alternative would be a bit mind-blowing. Prot
wins both Powell and the audience over, however, with his gentle mannerisms and
his meticulous detail about his home planet of K-PAX, light speed travel
theories, and general observations about humanity, which seem both accurate and
certainly seems either way that Prot is no threat to anybody…but his presence
begins to have an unusual effect on the other patients in the ward.
Prot has indicated July 27 as the date for his return home, and he will
be allowed to take one human being back with him.
That possibility, along with Prot’s belief that all creatures have it
within them to cure themselves (a fact we humans have not yet discovered, he
points out), brings a new spirit to his fellow patients.
We see vibrant improvement right before our eyes!
however, seems to be treading a fine line between his duty as a doctor, which
would be to cure Prot’s delusions, and the fact that at times, he seems to be
believing himself. Prot even
astounds a group of top astronomers with his mathematical calculations and
orbital projections showing the location of his home planet.
something about Prot’s date and time for return bothers Powell.
Finally, using hypnosis, he begins trying to piece together Prot’s
past…could the upcoming date actually mark the anniversary of something
Spacey’s performance is so sincere from start to finish, we as the audience
have to continually remind ourselves that Prot could be just a mentally ill
human being. Like another of his
memorable characters, Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, his sincerity
goes a long way in selling us on the dramatic arc of the story.
In a superbly constructed climax, we wait on the edge of our seat for the
final answer as to who Prot is.
Jeff Bridges, who once played the Starman, is in fine form playing the
“straight man” opposite Spacey. His
Dr. Powell is more than an aid to the plot…his involvement with Prot closely
mirrors our own. As an actor,
he’s never afraid to offer us subtle clues that he may in fact be beginning to
believe Prot, and what that possibility could mean.
actors together elevate a good script to an even higher level, and probably made
director Iain Softley’s job a lot easier.
With confidence in his stars, Softley brings the film to live in a
visually succinct way, using effects to heighten and accent his key sequences.
The movie has a great sense of pacing and rhythm for its two hours…it
never seems to miss a beat.
rank of such films as Close Encounters, E. T., and the aforementioned Starman
as works that consider the possibility that we are not alone with optimism.
Would the presence of benign, intelligent beings outside of earth really
mean that humanity has a chance to overcome its frailties and become something
bigger and better? Maybe, maybe
not. But for the length of a two hour film, it’s certainly nice
to think so.
is a stellar effort from Universal…a bright, colorful offering with lots of
minute detail and a great spectral range, all of which translates flawlessly
onto disc. Images are sharply
defined throughout, and colors look vivid and natural in every kind of light
setting imaginable…when Dr. Powell dims the lights in his office, for example,
it gives the schematics a whole new photographic vocabulary. The planetarium sequence, which is much darker, is a good
study in light/dark contrasts and how well they can render on DVD.
Reference quality all the way!
is a full, dynamic 5.1 audio offering (choice of Dolby Digital or DTS tracks).
Despite the dialogue being the main attraction, there are a number of
sequences that allow both stages to open up fully, such as the planetarium one,
or a couple of strong flashback sequences…even the opening at the train
station. The subwoofer use is generally subtle but potent, accenting
certain scenes with extra bottom end. The
spoken words and the music are clear and well rendered throughout…a
Collector’s Edition discs usually mean the extras are plentiful; K-PAX is
no exception. The commentary by
director Iain Softley is a good listen, as he talks about the cast, the filming,
and his ideas on shaping the story. There
is also an alternate 4 minute ending…interesting, because the differences
between the two are more subtle than grand (unlike, say, Joy Ride).
There is a production featurette containing interview footage with
Spacey, Bridges, Softley, and other crew members (poor Kevin really did eat that
banana), some deleted scenes, a trailer, production notes, talent files, some
DVD ROM extras, and a nice finishing touch:
a gallery of Jeff Bridges’ own photographs from the production.