[Movie Review] Mirrors

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Amy Smart

Director: Alexandre Aja

Genre: Horror

Cert: 15

Released: 2008

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.


[Movie Review] Eye For An Eye

Eye for an EyeStarring: Sally Field, Joe Mantegna, Ed Harris, Kiefer Sutherland, Beverly D’Angelo, Philip Baker Hall, Keith David
Director: John Schlesinger
Genre: Thriller
Cert: 18
Released: 1996

Director, John Schlesinger, has been very quiet of late. He picked up an oscar for “Midnight Cowboy” (1969, best director) and had several nominations around that time. However, since his heyday, his movies have been thin on the ground. The seventies brought “Yanks” and “Marathon Man” , the eighties gave us “Believers” and 1990 saw him give us the average thriller “Pacific Heights” (Michael Keaton on top form). One could be forgiven for thinking that the end is nigh for this quality director…hold on.

“Eye for an Eye” is only the London-born directors fourth film of the nineties. Sally Field plays Karen McCann, a loving mother who is subjected to being an aural witness to the rape and murder of her teenage daughter. When Robert Doob (Sutherland) is charged for the murder and is then released on a technicality, Karen finds it hard to cope with the reality and starts to follow him, knowing he will do it again. Detective Dinillo (Mantegna) can do nothing to help her though and sure enough Doob kills again. She starts to grow apart from her husband (Harris) and is hellbent on achieving revenge for the injustice so much, that she gets involved with vigilantism.

While “Eye for an Eye” cannot be considered in the same breath as “Cape Fear” or “Seven”, there is enough tension and emotion on show to ensure a good 90 minutes will be had by all. The performances are very strong; Sutherland, very much an underrated actor excels in a limited role, Mantegna and Harris hang on to whatever they can admirably and Field is a potent enough actress to run the show.

Even though much of it is formulaic, Schlesinger uses his undoubted ability to keep things moving as fast and as tensely as possible. “Eye for an Eye” is a good title that can be recommended to most.