Rated: R Grade: BBBB=B
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit, who previously made Hart’s War, Primal Fear, Fallen, and Frequency.
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Straithairn, Rosamund Pike, Embeth Davidtz, and Billy Burke.
Summary: Ted Crawford, an aeronautical engineer investigator for the NTSB, discovers that his young wife is having an affair and murders her. Willy Beachum, a hotshot lawyer leaving the DA’s office for more lucrative private practice inherits the case and discovers that the case is much more challenging than it originally seems.
Entertainment Value: B Hopkins is great, of course. Gosling is also quite good in this movie that feels a bit like a John Grisham novel. If Hannibal Lecter were an NTSB investigator with an adulterous wife…. The plot is excellent and intricate. And I always enjoy a movie which gives you just enough information that you can figure things out if you’re really paying attention.
Superficial Content: B Drugs/Alcohol B, Sexuality B, Violence C, Language B, Illegality C. The sexuality is in the plot and not so much shown, although I will warn you that a fairly graphic scene was in the deleted scenes on the DVD, so don’t watch them. Obviously the central plot element is a murder, which is shown, and there are other elements of violence.
Significant Content: B Here’s my big problem with this movie. They take for granted that killing an adulterous spouse is totally wrong, and I had a hard time hating Hopkins the way they wanted me to. Pride is clearly shown to be a defect. Justice and the desire to see it done is a strong element. Police corruption is an implied part of this. One of the major themes in this movie is the temptation to do law for money or for meaning, and a strong endorsement of the value of doing it for meaning is given.
Artistic/Thought Value: B What do you want me to say? It’s a very well-designed murder mystery where the mystery is not whodunit but is-anyone-going-to-get-punished-for-it-and-if-so-how? Gosh, that’s a lot of hyphens.
- Why is adultery wrong? Should it be illegal? If so, what should the punishment be? Consider that the Old Testament punished adultery with death. If you were on the jury trying this case, would you find Hopkins not guilty, guilty, or guilty of some lesser offense than Murder in the First Degree?
- Humans have a universal impulse toward vengeance for wrongs done, especially when done to those we love. In what ways is this a sinful response and in what ways a Divine one? Is vigilantism wrong always or just some of the time? Why? Is it more noble to pursue justice within the system rather than outside of it? Why? What about when the system does not concern itself with a particular injustice, such as adultery?
- How do you make sense of the love story in this movie? Why was it included?
- Hopkins is proud and competitive. Likewise Gosling. Even though one is cast as a good guy and the other the villain, discuss how different or similar they are.
- This is a film-noir, or at least largely so. Do you think the director intended this as an homage to older Hollywood detective mystery movies?
- Is Willie Beachum a guy you would want your friend to marry?
- Hopkins says that Beachum’s greatest weakness is that he’s a winner. What do you think of this assessment? How is being a winner dangerous?
- Does it matter if you do the right thing for the wrong reason? Discuss Beachum’s motivations at varying points in this movie.
- Why do we have the Constitutional rule protecting defendants against Double Jeopardy?
Overall Grade: B It’s solid.