I probably should have set this up earlier, maybe when it played on TV in the U.S.. Many haven't had the chance to see it yet and it's still opening in theaters outside the U.S. and won't be on DVD here until Dec 25th so any real discussion of the film needs it's own topic, especially since the film is one that hinges on spoilers.
So again SPOILERS will be in this topic.
That said I don't have many spoilers in my first post.
I liked it quite a bit, it's very solid tight psychological thriller and I loved the last 15-20 minutes where Pierce has one fantastic scene where he's completely brilliant. The last 20 minutes showed me why Pierce and Maria wanted to do this film and they both hit their big scenes out of the park.
Also watching the film again after knowing how it turns out is great for seeing how all the acting nuances/choices and story threads which I wondered at really support and feed into the later twists and conclusion.
... I don't know where to start. I'll just write down my thoughts.
Maybe on PB's character first. I felt sorry for Tom at the end. Half-spoiled as I was (for I knew there was the connection between Tom and Abby), I sat in the first screening last Thursday and thought ... no, no, no, he isn't really threatening like a bad guy should be. Too emotional. Too unsure sometimes. Just look like he was breathing heavily in the car after his first appearance - just as if he was kind of relieved that the plan had worked in the beginning. Or in the scene with his son (unbelievable they cut out that scene in the second TNT-showing). Or when he hands out the handkerchief to Abby. - But then on Friday I thought - well, it probably was the first time for Tom to do this sort of things this way. So it was rather propriate that he wasn't that cold and calm. But that's not what the trailer and the synapsis made us think of Tom's character - so I can understand that some people may find his performance not threatening enough on first sight. After the second viewing I thought it was only conclusive the way he played it. (Just speculation: Probably Abby had planned that elaborate game. If it was after Tom's mind - he would have done rather something quick or brutal to Neil to end it all up - Tom didn't have that much fun in this, hardly able not to speak out what's on his mind sometimes - rather doing this 'car crash' to stop the 'discussion').
Weak points: If Tom really had that good relationship to his son (and that was remarkable, for youngsters at that age normally don't show it in the public this way, greeting over the street etc.) - how can he as a father say in a scene later on he doesn't care what happens to him, risking his life sometimes over these hours? Especially while throwing off the briefcase with the 'money' - one heavy break from Neil - and the game would have been over. And it keeps completely untold and unimaginable what might have been Tom's intention for the future life? After breaking Neil and ending up the 'affair'? (The same for Abby) But these are questions one shouldn't ask too much, because it's a movie about people's emotions and these are not always rational. It's a movie and it worked for these 98 minutes in a really good and tricky story. There are movies with stories much more unrealistic and unbelievable.
Good points: The hotel scene with the red dress. That was a really good 'bad' scene. Good acting (or better not acting just a constantly cold look) and good music in this part made you think Tom's really serious with what he says. And of course the last scene when you get to know Tom's intention. Very convincing on Tom's part. I thought he was quite perplex and frightened of himself having nearly killed Neil if Judy hadn't make him stop. But he should have had at least one more scene after this. Just to explain his intentions a bit more - like they did with Abby's last scene.
I think it wasn't PB's fault if his character didn't have much of a development, it was part of the screenplay not to give away anything until the end. The end was indeed a little quick and short, but surprising and conclusive at the same time. When you know it, the clues seem a bit too obvious sometimes - especially the meaningful looks Tom and Abby exchange when it becomes clear that Neil has to accompany Abby into the bank. A bit too long and obvious in my opinion. But the rest of the peoply in the theatre didn't seem to get it, so I think it wasn't too much. The meaning of 'home, sweet home' Tom mentions towards the end even I got only after the first screening. Cool. Even though I was spoiled I was suprised how they worked it out.
The performances of GB and MB were okay, I didn't think that Butler was a 'weak point' as some of his fans said somewhere. It was such a fun to see the audience's reactions to his final lie to Abby about the affair Judy supposed to have with Carl. Protests everywhere. Me included.
I didn't like the music in the opening credits. It was almost like Erik Satie's Gymnopédie Nr. 1 from 1888 - too melancholic and relaxing for a supposed to be thriller. And a much too big and sweet 'Hollywood' sound at the point when Neil meets Abby again in the rain after his failure on top of the building and in the police station. When she says Tom didn't touch her. At that point the audience in the first screening started to talk somehow and they should have shown Tom a bit more evil/mean/threatening to get over this scene. That was where the tension almost got lost. Nearly.
And I didn't like the way they showed the flashbacks. With that quick 'zoomes' they broke with the style of the whole movie. And the smile Abby had on her face while leaving the restaurant with Tom or handing out the papers to the boss of the rival corporation - that wasn't there in the original and it was a bit too far fetched.
Wow so many great points. I don't have time right now to do them all justice but I'll try and start. [Edit: Wow look- my answer was long too.
I don't think Tom means that he has noting to lose, he just wants Neil to believe he has nothing to lose. He knows Abby is on his side. He knows the gun is empty. And though it's not shown in the cut version (was it in yours?) Tom is cop, he can handle himself physically and knows how cops react etc (like when Neil goes to the police station).
But I agree this is the first time he'd done something like this. Outwardly he's trying to play it very cold and controlled and then you have the cracks where you can tell he's tapping down his range and emotion - and at points even his weariness with the entire plan and how he wants it over.
I love the scene with his son and after because here you see the biggest crack and the first time you watch without knowing the ending you might wonder at his reaction. But you realize that Neil having the complete gall talking about Tom ruining his son's life and talking about Tom's supposed wife etc and there's all this anger inside at Tom -- the man who's torn his family apart -- the man that's ruining his son's life and he just wants him to shut up -- but it hits so close to home and why he's doing this he can't say it - so Tom crashes the car to make Neil stop -- and to scare the bleep out of him because he hates him that much.
The scenes at the end are a masterclass in acting. Not just the rage and the pain but when it's over, the way he walks slowly to sit down, taking off his coat and all the pain, defeat and horror at what's he done and what's become of his life are etched in the lines of his body. It's brilliant.
Maria Bello also had a tricky role, playing a victim who wasn't. At times she seems a tad too removed as her daughter is kidnapped, too cool -- but it works when see that in their emotional relationship Abby seems to be the stronger one. For all that Neil is the guy with the powerful job she's the one that keeps it all together -- which is something else he loses when his marriage is over. Her scene at the end is chilling and powerfully done -- you can see her relishing every word and remembrance as she unleashes years of pent up hate and pain on to Neil.
I loved the red dress scene and just wish it had gone even further especially when we later know Abby was in on it. Neil thinking something was happening or even watching something more actually happening would have meshed with their plan beautifully and upped the stakes and pain considerably - and given even greater punch to that part of the film.
Neil is such a weasel - in work and personally (heck he even tried to lie about his bank balance when his child's life was on the line then he's shoving around his wife about the papers) which might be why some of GB's fans weren't that impressed with his acting; maybe they were looking for someone more heroic or even likable.
For me GB starts at such a high emotional near hysterical pitch after the abduction that there's not much room for it to escalate without going over the top which he does at times. There's not a lot of nuance in his performance but then Neil isn't a guy of great depth so it works for him. He's also weak and as Tom says doesn't do well in a crisis. True that.
I liked the flashbacks because for most of the film we're only shown what Neil can see, but here we see little bits he couldn't have seen or saw and misconstrued. They're done quick enough that they don't impede Abby's story but flesh it out. I would have liked knowing who contacted whom in this plot. It feels like it was Abby contacted Tom but it would be great to know the logistics.
I too thought the film ended too abruptly on Tom's story. I wanted more. I'd have liked something with his wife. Then again the defeat in his body shows that its over between them. Is there anything to say that would make it better, that would change anything? Oh huge plot unbelievability -- that Tom's wife would cheat on him with that weasel Neil and in his own home. Then again there's no accounting for taste and sanity.
I also wanted more back story of Tom and wonder how much more there was in the reportedly 30 minute longer original cut. We lose Tom being a cop -- what else did we lose in favor of keeping the story more streamlined and his character originally more of a cipher?
I agree with quite everything you said. I'm sure some of Tom's background was sacrificed due to make it a bit faster and more compact. One poster on GB.net mentioned a seemingly completely unedited version of the film that was about 2 hours and a half. She said it didn't serve the movie at all. But it would be so interesting to know all that. I'm afraid there won't be that much material about deleted scenes on the DVD that we'll be fully satisfied, but it will be better than nothing.
I think they would have had the time to put in some more information about Tom and his wife after PB's actual last scene without risking anything like losing tension or so. Because that was when the first real twist was over and you were quite excited how it came together to this point and we got to know the kid was alright. No one was really waiting for a second twist to come that quickly afterwards. As I said only 2-3 minutes would have been fine. But you're right, there wouldn't have been that much more to say between Tom and Judy (and not giving away Abby's involvement in all this to the audience). Their marriage was certainly over for Tom before he started planning the 'game' with Abby. Hard to imagine how he could manage to conceal from Judy and certainly his son too he knew everything all the time. And what should he tell his son after having done what he had done? Hard job. Sad, because they had such a good relationship. Impossible to save the situation to any good ending - and that was exactly what he looked like sitting there. Shocked and destroyed.
No ... in der version I saw there wasn't a hint about Tom's profession. Or I missed it by not getting the English right. I can't swear. But if it was there it could have been only in the talk with his son when Tom mentioned his 'job'. Afterwards really nothing. Do you think Tom tried to hide his face a little bit in the scene with him and Neil in the car when the policeman appears and asks if there were any problems? Maybe Tom was trying to get around being possibly recognized as a fellow cop? Okay I know - a weak toehold.
Talking about the scene with his son ... I liked it very much too. Oh Tom was so torn what to do. You could read all of his thoughts and doubts from his face and body language. There's no better way to describe and explain the feelings he probably has gone through to do this car crash in the end than you did it, Ace. Cool. What I liked very much in that part was that amazing uncertain and desperate look on Tom's face when his son had left and the two men were getting back into the car ... the short screenshot you could also see in the trailer when PB's name appears on the screen. When the trailer was out I thought immediately: that shot somehow doesn't fit. As a cold kidnapper he shouldn't look so ... unhappy. What's wrong with him in that particular moment? He can't be the bad guy.
After the scene with his son I simply couldn't believe that Tom was still convinced he could make Neil think he (Tom) was a man who has nothing to lose anymore. That is why I didn't like that certain statement towards Neil. Because it seemed so implausible to me and must have the same way to Neil.
About going further in the red dress scene (even only in mind) ... Yes I think that it would have worked and would have made Tom more of a character you can really hate. Without anybody necessarily getting hurt in real. www.koreafilm.co.kr/movie/today_movie4/butterfly_11.jpg I was thinking about what they could have Tom let do in the screenplay to make him more frightening. But because all the kidnapping was a fake he (or the 'bad' nanny) couldn't do anything with or to the child. So to do mean things to Abby who was in the game would have been a good opportunity to make him seem dead serious. Oh but I was wondering if hitting Abby in that one scene was really pre-planned?
Here's the Official Synopsis that Maple Pictures sent me. It's quite spoilery and it's dated, I think it's the first draft of the synopsis but the majority of it ends up in the film itself. Though I think you guys will see what part of Nicholas Lea's deleted scene will be.
ABBY, NEIL and their daughter SOPHIE are a family leading a charmed life. Neil is next in line at work for a big promotion, managing in every case to be the better man in the eyes of his boss, ahead of his jealous coworker JERRY. Abby is happily raising their daughter Sophie after giving up a career in photography. Basically everything is going great until one day, after getting a babysitter to watch Sophie for the afternoon, Abby and Neil are driving along and a stranger jumps into their car with a gun and tells them to drive.
This stranger is RYAN. He informs them that the babysitter is working for him and that if they don't do exactly what he says, the babysitter will kill Sophie. He first orders them to drive to the bank where he makes the couple go inside and ask to withdraw all their savings. Neil goes outside, unable to go through with it, but Abby comes outside with a suitcase and they all get back in the car. They drive over a bridge and Ryan sets the inside of the suitcase on fire, presumably burning all the money, and then tosses it out the window. Suddenly, Abby and Neil realize they're in for a much worse time than they thought.
They get to the Southside of Chicago and they go to a restaurant. Ryan orders the most expensive item on the menu and gives Abby and Neil half an hour to come up with the money, over $300. They run around, begging for help from people, and finally Neil manages to pawn his wife's diamond bracelet for far less then we presume it to be worth. They go back to the restaurant and pay Ryan's bill. Next, he sends Abby with an envelope to an address to give to an executive. While Abby is gone, Ryan is accosted on the street by MATT, his son, but Ryan blows him off. Ryan and Neil drive there and watch through a window to see whether or not she hands over the envelope. Ryan reveals that inside the envelope is secret information about Neil's company and that the address Abby is delivering it to his company's main competitor. Neil realizes his career will be ruined if she hands over the envelope. Ryan gives him one phone call to stop her but she gives the envelope over anyway.
They stop at a train station and grab Abby. Ryan goes into the train station and grabs a parcel, accidentlly leaving his cell phone there. Neil checks the last number dialed and figures out it belongs to a hotel. When Ryan gets back he hands over the parcel to Neil and orders him and Abby to take the train into the country. He says he'll meet them there. Instead Neil and Abby use the number to find the hotel, run up and go into the room where they think Sophie is being held. But they find Ryan has tricked them and he's waiting for them. He takes Abby with him and tells Neil it's his turn to try and find them. He and Abby run off and take the car, leaving Neil with only a clue to find where Ryan is taking Abby.
Neil figures it out and goes too the roof of the tallest building in Chicago. Unfortunately he's late and Ryan tells him he's raped Abby. Neil comes down from the building and goes to the police but they don't belive him. Apparently, Abby and Ryan had been in there, spinning a tale about how Ryan was a boyfriend and Neil was just doing anything to get Abby back. Neil comes out of the station in total despair. He sees the car and finds Abby fine and untouched and Ryan there. They all drive off into the country and Neil realizes they're going out to the bosses country house where Neil was supposed to be invited to later.
They arrive and Ryan orders Neil to kill the person in the house. Why? Because it's to save Sophie. Neil goes in and there waiting for him is JUDY, a coworker who Neil's been having an affair with; the whole boss trip was just a cover all along, Neil sees a picture of her and Ryan and realizes Ryan is her husband. Ryan comes in and orders Neil to shoot her because he found out about the affair. Neil tries the gun but it's empty, Ryan says this proves Neil doesn't love Judy and should mean that Judy will come back to him. Neil leaves, the game over, but not before Abby sees Judy inside. She's confused but Neil spins a lie to hide the truth of the affair. They go home and they find their daughter just fine with the babysitter asleep. Then Abby reveals that she knew about the affair and this whole thing was planned with Ryan. Their money is still there and his job is still intact; the documents she handed over were blank. She just wanted to see him suffer like she had the last few months.. Jerry told her about the affair. She takes off with Sophie to start a new life without Neil.