Orphan‘s a peculiar failure. The script isn’t particularly good; it’s layered with foreshadowing upon foreshadowing and some very predictable turns. But it has these occasionally strong dialogue scenes between Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard. It runs out of them after a while, but they leave a positive memory.
Then there’s director Collet-Serra. He really likes crane shots in what should be enclosed spaces and he likes to use handheld when he should have a track. Orphan feels like an inexperienced director who got the opportunity to do a lot of things just because he could. Collet-Serra can’t do the two simple things Orphan needs him to do.
First, it needs him to tie a children’s story–Aryana Engineer and Jimmy Bennett get an adopted sister–to an adult’s story–Farmiga and Sarsgaard are new adoptive parents. Both of these stories (more Farmiga and Sarsgaard because of their fine acting, Farmiga in particular) have some strong moments. Scared kids is a classic, cheap movie standard and Collet-Serra can’t pull it off. It’s sort of embarrassing, because he doesn’t even seem to get it.
Second, he needs to give the family’s house a personality. He can’t. Some of it is lousy production design courtesy Tom Meyer, some of it is Collet-Serra’s incompetence.
As the film’s bad seed, Isabelle Fuhrman is mediocre. She can’t hold her accent and she’s never believable in hindsight after the big reveal.
Orphan‘s a boring thriller with bad direction and an excellent Farmiga performance.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra; screenplay by David Johnson, based on a story by Alex Mace; director of photography, Jeff Cutter; edited by Timothy Alverson; music by John Ottman; production designer, Tom Meyer; produced by Joel Silver, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Susan Downey and Leonardo DiCaprio; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Vera Farmiga (Kate), Peter Sarsgaard (John), Isabelle Fuhrman (Esther), CCH Pounder (Sister Abigail), Jimmy Bennett (Daniel), Margo Martindale (Dr. Browning), Karel Roden (Dr. Varava), Rosemary Dunsmore (Grandma Barbara) and Aryana Engineer (Max).
Posted in 2009, American Sign Language, Canada, Color, English, Estonian, France, Germany, Mystery, Thriller, USA, Warner Bros.
Tagged Alex Mace, Aryana Engineer, CCH Pounder, David Johnson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Jaume Collet-Serra, Jeff Cutter, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Jimmy Bennett, Joel Silver, John Ottman, Karel Roden, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margo Martindale, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosemary Dunsmore, Susan Downey, Timothy Alverson, Tom Meyer, Vera Farmiga
Unknown is not a bad continental thriller. Liam Neeson is an American scientist in Berlin who wakes from a coma to find no one remembers him. As often happens in these situations, he finds himself a pretty sidekick (Diane Kruger) and a sympathetic native (Bruno Ganz) who try to help him unravel the mystery.
The film benefits a great deal from John Ottman and Alexander Rudd’s score, Flavio Martínez Labiano’s photography and the Berlin locations. Director Collet-Serra only has a handful of bad sequences—he likes the CG-aided slow motion a little too much—but he’s otherwise a perfectly mediocre thriller director.
Having Neeson for a lead helps too. He’s able to bring an air of respectability to the project, which would otherwise feel a little too pedestrian otherwise. January Jones—as his forgetting wife—doesn’t bring much substance too her performance and Aidan Quinn—as Neeson’s replacement—looks a little lost. Quinn gets this bewildered look from time to time, like he can’t believe he’s in this kind of picture. Neeson—who’s been doing these genre pieces for over a decade now—looks a lot more comfortable. Though it does occasionally seem like a thematic sequel to Darkman, which isn’t so much bad as unintentionally amusing.
There are twists, there are turns. There’s an ornate car chase (with unnecessary CG). The finale isn’t exactly predictable, but I’ve seen it before….
Unknown’s a diverting couple hours; Neeson and Kruger (oddly, a German playing a Bosnian) make it worthwhile.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra; screenplay by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, based on a novel by Didier Van Cauwelaert; director of photography, Flavio Martínez Labiano; edited by Timothy Alverson; music by John Ottman and Alexander Rudd; production designer, Richard Bridgland; produced by Leonard Goldberg, Andrew Rona and Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Liam Neeson (Dr. Martin Harris), Diane Kruger (Gina), January Jones (Elizabeth Harris), Aidan Quinn (Martin B), Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jürgen), Frank Langella (Rodney Cole), Sebastian Koch (Professor Leo Bressler), Olivier Schneider (Smith), Stipe Erceg (Jones), Rainer Bock (Herr Strauss), Mido Hamada (Prince Shada), Clint Dyer (Biko), Karl Markovics (Dr. Farge) and Eva Löbau (Nurse Gretchen Erfurt).
Posted in 2011, Arabic, Canada, Color, Drama, English, France, German, Germany, Japan, Mystery, Thriller, Turkish, UK, USA, Warner Bros.
Tagged Aidan Quinn, Alexander Rudd, Andrew Rona, Bruno Ganz, Clint Dyer, Diane Kruger, Didier Van Cauwelaert, Eva Löbau, Flavio Martínez Labiano, Frank Langella, January Jones, Jaume Collet-Serra, Joel Silver, John Ottman, Karl Markovics, Leonard Goldberg, Liam Neeson, Mido Hamada, Oliver Butcher, Olivier Schneider, Rainer Bock, Richard Bridgland, Sebastian Koch, Stephen Cornwell, Stipe Erceg, Timothy Alverson