Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5.
Canada, 2014. Ego Film Arts, The Film Farm. Story by Atom Egoyan, Screenplay by Atom Egoyan, David Fraser. Cinematography by Paul Sarossy. Produced by Atom Egoyan, Stephen Traynor, Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss. Music by Mychael Danna. Production Design by Phillip Barker. Costume Design by Debra Hanson. Film Editing by Susan Shipton. Cannes Film Festival 2014.
A strange misfire, a film with no substance or intelligence, and it’s a shame given the talents involved. Told in director Atom Egoyan’s familiar non-linear method where scenes are displayed out of sequence, the plot’s nucleus is the kidnapping of a little girl from the truck of her unemployed father (Ryan Reynolds, painfully unbelievable as blue collar). His wife (an annoyingly overwrought Mireille Enos) is devastated, while the police officers assigned to find her (Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson) are submerged in a case linked to a giant child pornography ring that they have no idea how to crack. The narrative also displays scenes from many years later, where we see the victim still a captive to a ridiculously arch villain (Kevin Durand), who would be too much even for a James Bond film, who has possibly brainwashed her to be a part of the operation that lures in other children (this is referenced but never shown, not even obscurely, and is one of the film’s biggest and most frustrating gaps). She and he also spend the years keeping tabs on Enos through video surveillance that has a level of sophistication that is not properly explained, a pretentious extravagance that is the film’s most outrageous demand on the audience’s patience. The narrative is the easiest part to grasp, actually, as Egoyan’s rigid control makes it easy to follow despite the fractured structure, it’s the lack of sympathy that baffles, particularly in scenes that slow down to take emotional stock of situations but reveal nothing tangible. Egoyan always maintains a God-like distance from his characters which makes it impossible to be moved by their suffering when put in horrific situations, while here the possible comment on internet connectivity, which seems to be what keeps these entrepreneurial pedophiles from getting caught and makes captives of us all, is lost in the whimsies of the plot (Durand can turn any laptop into a spyhole camera, something I don’t even think the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo could pull off). It’s a remarkably simple movie masquerading quite condescendingly as something significant, which is likely the reason for its unfavourable, heated critical response (the film received resounding boos at Cannes), its collection of movie stars pretending to be regular people the final insult in something that offers so few rewards.