Along Came a Spider
One of my personal favorite genres has always been the psychological thriller. This is one reason I so greatly enjoyed Kiss the Girls, made from the James Patterson novel. As such, I anticipated the release of another Alex Cross novel to the screen, Along Came a Spider. I was not disappointed. Spider follows the Forensic Psychologist Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman). This is an extremely intelligent man, devoted to helping the victim of crimes, catching the criminals and meticulously solving the puzzles set before him. His is the best in his field and a noted expert on the subject of the criminal mind. When the film starts we see Cross in the midst of a sting operation to catch a serial killer. Unfortunately, his partner loses her life in the process. Cut to a very up scale private school. This school is loaded with the kids of very important, rich and influential people. In charge of security of the school is Secrete Service agent Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter). Right out from under Jezzie a trusted teacher kidnaps young Megan Rose (Mika Boorem) a senators only child. As the manhunt begins the kidnapper contacts Cross drawing him from the depression his partners death left hin in and back into the game. The kidnapper has laid out an intricate plan leaving clues (dont they always) to test the abilities of Cross. What follows is an excellently executed film that will take you through the many twists and turns without you losing interest for a moment.
To pull off a film like this casting is critical. Freeman reprises his roll from Kiss the Girls with the same intelligence and flair that he brings to every role I have ever seen him in. Few actors can command the screen in such as fashion as Freeman can. You easily believe his is the type of man that spends his spare time building detailed models of sailing ships in perfect detail. The care in details he brings to Cross comes from the great care this man brings to his craft as an actor. I have just seen Potter in a little comedy and had some trepidation as to how she could pull off a serious role like this. She was more than up to the task. In fact there was a hint of a Julia Roberts quality to her performance. Just a word here or a facial expression there but it was there. Like Roberts, Potter has range in her acting ability. The real gem of this film is the role of Megan, the victim. While not in a lot of scenes every scene that young Ms Boorem is in are greatly enhanced by her presence. I look forward to seeing her in Riding in Cars With Boys as the younger version of Drew Barrymores character.
Pacing is everything in a film like this. Lee Tamahori directs the film much like the novel unfolds, with care and dedication to the details. He never lets the audience get bogged down with overly expository scenes. He trusts the intelligence of the viewer to catch on to what is happening. The film moves along so well you will find yourself draw into it as if you were one of the characters. Tamahori does not have an extensive resume as a director. He did some work like directing episodes of the Sopranos, and Mulholland Drive but he paid his dues as a first assistant director for a good number of films. He also worked as a boom operator for many years. Coming from a technical background like this shows in the way he sets up his shots. They are perfectly framed and the sound field is well constructed. There is a real 3D feel to the sound that places you in the picture. The lighting does well in creation of a mood that prevails throughout the film.
The disc is not up to what many currently expect from DVD. There are almost no extras, just a behind the scenes featurette. The audio is listed as Dolby 5.1 but my sub woofer displays when it is active and there are only about two seconds that it is used, about 42 and 68 minutes into the film. The rest of the movie all lower frequencies come from the front and rear speakers. The video is exceptionally clear 1.85:1 anamorphic. Every detail is visible and there are absolutely no artifacts present. This DVD is a prime example of why a collector should not fall into the trap of becoming so enamored of the technology that DVDs can provide and concentrate on the films this media can bring to your home theater. While some studios like Fox and Columbia focus more on the extras, Paramount has been sticking to plain vanilla discs of usually above average film. If you want to watch a film late at night where the booming of a sub woofer will wake the neighbors try popping in this disc. It is a great little film and I sincerely hope that the studio decides to do more on Alex Cross and that they get Freeman to act in them.