Written by James Patterson and Marc Moss
Directed by Lee Tamahori
I enjoy a film that takes me by surprise. Give me a good thriller with plenty of twists and turns I can’t see coming, throw in some terrific actors who are spot-on in their roles, and you’ve got a near-perfect film as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, Along Came a Spider is lacking in all of those respects.
Based upon the blockbuster novel by James Patterson, Along Came a Spider stars Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross, a detective who is renown in police circles for his work on profiling. After a bust he was leading goes horribly wrong, he retreats from the world. What draws him out again is the kidnapping of Megan Rose (Mika Boorem), the daughter of Senator Rose (Michael Moriarty) out from under the Secret Service’s nose at her exclusive prep-school. After receiving a cryptic and baiting phone call from the kidnapper, Cross finds the girl’s shoe in his mailbox.
Along the way he must deal with the usual contrivances such as a Federal Agent with an axe to grind and territorial issues. He wants to conduct the investigation his way, but at the insistence of the Senator and his wife, Alex remains with the investigation.
Monica Potter is Jezzie Flannigan, the secret service agent in charge of the kidnapped girl. She is considered persona non-grata, but Alex sees her value as someone who encountered the kidnapper five days a week for two years on end. As the two work together she seems to be taking on the role of student to Cross’ mentoring.
There’s no mystery in the beginning as to who the kidnapper is – it’s a teacher at the school, Mr. Soneji (Michael Wincott). There is more to the story than that, and I figured that out about five minutes into the kidnapping story, although I won’t lay it out here.
Overall the story left me shaking my head. Michael Wincott is pretty good in the role as the kidnapper. The problem is how the story is written in this regard, not his performance. I kept wondering exactly why with him being as smart and ruthless as he was purported to be he would purposely lure out this notable profiler. There’s not enough known about the character of Soneji to really ascribe a motive for his actions, and it’s one of the things that really hurts the plot overall. He is emulating the Lindbergh kidnapping – no, there’s more to it – no, maybe he’s working with someone else and there’s more to it… Perhaps the book covers it better, I just don’t know.
I like Morgan Freeman quite a bit, but here he just seems so emotionless as Cross I had a hard time trying to form any empathy or even enough emotion to care about what happened to his character. For someone who had retreated from the world due to the violent death of his partner on his watch, he seems to gravitate to taking on another female partner entirely too easily. If he had hesitated more in taking Agent Flannigan under his wing it would have been more understandable. I hate to criticize Freeman this way, but it almost seemed as if he didn’t have a good handle on the emotional side of Cross in this story. I do remember seeing Kiss The Girls, another film where Freeman portrays the same character, and liking it and him much better. I think part of it was I was looking for Cross to be more like the character Freeman portrayed in Se7en, but whether it’s the fault of the script or Freeman he doesn’t get to that level.
The role of Agent Flannigan is one that could have been played by just about anyone, and unfortunately Potter does little to personalize the role to herself in any way. She’s pretty and smart, and that’s about it. Plop any other actress who can do “pretty and smart” in the role and you’d probably get about the same result. I give some credit to Mika Boorem as the kidnapped girl. She handles a role that is demanding on someone her age quite well.
The chase scenes are good. The opening sequence showing how Alex loses his partner is particularly well-done, and was one of the few scenes that really affected me emotionally. Overall, though, despite carrying a marquee name like Morgan Freeman, Along Came a Spider has more of the feel of a made-for-TV movie than a feature film.
DVD Special Features:
* Theatrical Trailer
* The Making of Along Came A Spider featurette