Written by Ryne Douglas Pearson, Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal
Directed by Harold Becker
I had heard a lot of positive buzz about this movie, so I anticipated sitting down to watch it and enjoying myself. I was sorely disappointed.
The movie opens with a botched FBI raid on a militia/separatist group holding hostages in a bank. Bruce Willis as Agent Art Jeffries has managed to infiltrate the group and is desperately trying to protect the leader’s three sons from certain death. When the oldest dies in front of him, Jeffries takes it personally. His reaction immediately earns him a demotion.
Jeffries ends up being called in on an apparent murder/suicide case that may also involve a missing child. This is how he comes to be involved with Simon Lynch, a 9 year old autistic boy. Someone is after Simon and Jeffries cannot figure out why.
The viewer already knows, having had it all laid out before them. Simon’s autism results in him having savant-like capabilities. In a puzzle book he finds what turns out to be a plant of the government’s new two million dollar supposedly unbreakable code. This was put there to check out the “geek factor”. Simon “sees” the code and solves it. It then tells him to call a phone number to collect his prize.
Alec Baldwin portrays Nicholas Kudrow, a National Security Officer who believes he is acting in his country’s best interest when he orders the erasure of anyone connected with the knowledge that the code has been cracked. At the time this movie was released (1998) this line of thinking may seem completely out of line. However, looking on it with the perspective of the last year behind me, it takes on a different meaning.
What if we did have agents who had infiltrated Osama Bin Laden’s network and who’s identities were protected by the code? In the film, Kudrow keeps referring to an agent who has infiltrated Saddam Hussein’s high-command. Should they be pulled back and possibly a great loss of life result? Although I don’t think Kudrow was right to order the child and his parents killed, I am not convinced that Jeffries’ solution was correct either.
Though the film shows initial great promise, it does fall flat. The movie is schizophrenic in its approach to the story. At times it wants to be an action-packed thriller; at times a more cerebral film. I found it to be full of clichés and implausibility. At one point while protecting the boy, Jeffries goes to meet one of the creators of the code and picks “a nice lady” to leave the boy with. I don’t know of any person who would allow someone who is supposed to be acting as “Big Brother” to a child to just drop him off with a stranger – nice looking or not. If that were me, as soon as he was out of sight I probably would’ve been calling CPS.
We see the friend who doesn’t want to know anything but is made to believe and also makes his bosses believe. During the whole film all he talks about is how he can’t be doing this – but he is all along anyway. It was predictable what would happen and who would die – I found that there was no suspense whatsoever. Does anyone really think a 9 year old handicapped boy is going to be killed? I didn’t for one minute, so I knew what the ending would be already.
The one redeeming point is the acting of young Miko Hughes who portrays Simon Lynch. Though at times he seems wooden portraying the autism, all in all he does a tremendous job for someone so young. His expressions and reactions are very good.
Other than Willis and Baldwin, the remaining cast is virtually unknown. I guess after spending the bucks for these two, they couldn’t afford anyone else. This is too bad, because I really don’t feel these actors added anything to the film. Willis gives a performance which is a cross between Jon McClane of the Die Hard series and Malcolm Crow of The Sixth Sense. It doesn’t seem to be a different character than we’ve seen him portray before. Baldwin portrays this part with nothing special. I felt that just about anyone could have taken over these roles and the movie would have been just about as good – or as bad – as it already is. The actors did not make these roles their own.
The DVD is a total waste, as the only BONUS MATERIAL consists of Production Notes, Cast & Film Maker lists, the Theatrical Trailer, and Web Links.
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