Fracture

Yep, you get two reviews this week! In case anyone's actually excited by that, though, I should add that this will probably not become a habit with me. It's just that there was a new Anthony Hopkins movie out, and how could I resist that?

He is of course playing a brilliant psychotic, because that seems to be all he does these days, but he's a brilliant brilliant psychotic. He plays Ted Crawford, a wealthy man who seems to be some kind of aerospace engineer, but for some reason spends most of his time building machines of various sizes whose sole purpose is to move little glass spheres along shiny metal tracks and through shiny metal hoops. They remind me of a clock I had as a child, which showed the time by stacking ball bearings along little plastic tracks, but Sir Tony's don't seem to tell time. As Det. Flores describes one such machine, "It's a... thing. That does... stuff."

Sir Anthony is married to the lovely (and much younger) Jennifer, played by Embeth Davidtz. In real life, she's 41 to his 69, so you just know they're headed for some kind of trouble. When he isn't making his gadgets, he's having his wife followed, and he knows she's having an affair. The other man is Rob Nunally (Billy Burke), who happens to be an LAPD hostage negotiator, and Sir Tony being as brilliant as he is, he figures out a way to use that little fact to his advantage.

If you've seen the previews, you know that he just up and shoots his wife, apparently without any concern for the consequences. But herein lies the brilliance. An open-and-shut, suspect-confessed, we've-got-the-murder-weapon case suddenly isn't any of those things.

Enter Ryan Gosling as Deputy District Attorney William Beachum. Willy, as Sir Tony calls him when he isn't calling him "old sport" or "kiddo", came to LA from a dirt poor childhood in Oklahoma and is now quietly, almost bitterly, determined to succeed beyond even his own wildest dreams. He's just maneuvered his way (through slightly underhanded means) into a coveted job at Wooton Sims, a top law firm, and he's leaving the low-paying, overworked life of a DDA behind. He even quickly finds himself a beautiful woman, in the person of his future supervisor, Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike, from Die Another Day, who still looks too gorgeous to be a real person). As soon as he finishes this nice, slam-dunk case, that is.

He soon learns the error of his ways. In spite of the old saying that anyone who represents himself has a fool for a client, Sir Tony runs his own defense, and in a deliberately hesitant, uncertain sort of manner, mops the floor with poor Ryan. Now, I hadn't seen him in anything since Murder By Numbers five years ago (where he was a homicidal maniac), so I wasn't sure how he'd measure up as the opponent to such a good, experienced actor.

Turns out he does really well. I didn't quite want to root for him at the beginning -- he isn't a bad guy, but he's so focused on remaking himself he's forgotten everything else, and you kind of want to slap him. But then, very slowly and convincingly, he remembers what the law is meant to do, even if it doesn't always succeed, and by the end of the movie, he's remade himself in a very different way than he'd intended, and I wanted to congratulate him.

Four and a quarter idols here. There isn't anything new in the moral dilemma front, but it's still an interesting struggle, and the film doesn't beat you over the head with it as so often happens. And the ending is excellent -- not a total surprise, but clever and convincing. It's shot almost like a film noir -- everything seems to be either too dark or too brightly lit, and if you look a little, you'll find reflections and shadows everywhere, showing how easy it is to deceive the eye sometimes. So I guess we have two movies with the same moral this week, even though it would be hard to find two more different mainstream films. And I suppose the secondary moral here is to beware of intelligent men with bizarre hobbies and too much time on their hands.

Originally posted 4/2007. I'm not sure the major legal loophole is accurate, but I like the film enough not to mind that so much.

Image: 
Sir Anthony sitting by a gadget. I <I>still</I> can't figure out what it does!

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