Director: Alexandre Aja
I don’t know the reason for Kiefer Sutherland’s fairly low-profile cinema career in the last decade. Since “24” launched in 2001 only “Phone Booth” and “The Sentinel” have showed up on my radar and much of his earnings outside of his smash TV series seem to come from voice acting in the likes of “The Land Before Time X” (Ten? Really??), “The Wild” and “Dragonlance”. Perhaps he is too busy to throw himself in to a major movie role but with “24” possibly finishing up this year we may see more frequent big screen appearances from Sutherland again.
This is my roundabout way of saying that it’s good to see him back on screen in “Mirrors”, a high-concept, psychological horror movie that’s loosely based on Korean horror, “Into the Mirror“. “The Hills Have Eyes” director Alexandre Aja – who is behind the camera – largely re-wrote the original script for the Hollywood adaptation.
Ben Carson (Sutherland) is an NYPD cop, suspended for an unspecified incident in which he shot someone dead. He’s hit hard times; estranged from his wife Amy (Patton) and kids, living with his sister Angela (Smart) and trying to stay sober.
To help him try to get his life back together he gets a new job as a security guard at a former department store, the Mayflower, that was burnt down years previous. During his first few nights he experiences strange occurrences – hand prints on the mirrors, a cracking mirror that seems to repair itself after causing a laceration on his hand, visions of screaming, burning bodies, and a vivid hallucination where Ben himself has caught fire.
When he receives a package from the Mayflower’s former security guard – a man we’ve seen killed in the movie’s opening scenes and whose wallet Ben found – he begins to believe that there is more to the events than hallucination. Although his wife thinks that his prescribed drugs are causing the visions, Ben realises that the presence in the mirrors is following him and might even endanger his family’s lives.
Not having seen “The Hills Have Eyes” I can’t comment on director Alexandre Aja’s previous work but online forums and blogs hold him in high esteem. I can see why on the basis of “Mirrors”, a visually impressive film which makes the most of its inventive concept. The idea of the menace lurking in a reflection lends itself to some striking scenes none more so than the opening salvo and latter scenes involving Ben’s family.
Smart and Patton don’t have too much to get their teeth in to but that’s okay as the movie is really all about Sutherland. He brings a vulnerable intensity to the role, portraying a man battling his own demons as well as encountering ones that he really has no business with. Tension is built through a combination of Sutherland’s driven but demented character and Aja’s stylish techniques.
The movie is hampered by a lumbering plot line that seems to outstay its welcome during an over-long second act, a hangover that is then felt in the final part. Ben’s investigation to uncover the source of the evil that inhabits the mirrors irks a little and so it’s with a feeling of near-exhaustion that you face the final act of the film.
In spite of this Aja has banked enough credit up till this point and has sufficient tricks up his sleeve to rescue the story. This could become an interesting little franchise if the second movie does some business.