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Don't Say A Word is supposed to be a thriller so excuse me when, approximately halfway through the movie I find what I call a fatal flaw that unravels the entire premise, and I can almost no longer enjoy the flick. And I had such high hopes too what with Director Gary Fleder's track record.
In 1995 he brought us a great little film debut called Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead. He followed that up with the so-so thriller Kiss the Girls (which, in turn, is better than the recent sequel Along Came A Spider) and he returns after wallowing in TV land for awhile with Don't Say A Word. A thriller with all the right elements (until that fatal flaw comes into place).
The premise is right up Fleder's alley. Dark, foreboding, creepy, yet compelling with a lot of room for style and finessing. Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) is a child psychologist, perhaps one of the best in the business (of course) and on the eve of Thanksgiving when he is on his way home to spend time with the family he gets an urgent call from Dr. Jerald Sachs (Oliver Platt). Sachs has a patient, Elisabeth Burrows ( Brittany Murphy) that is going to be placed in institutions for the rest of her life unless Conrad can help her. The problem is, this patient has a six figure number in her head that is the key to find a ten million diamond. Some desperate men want that diamond and kidnap Dr. Conrad's daughter to force him to find out what that number is. I'll return to that six-figure number premise in a little while.
For my money, you want to make a thriller, the first lead actor on your list should be Michael Douglas...at least if the character is to be some form of intellectual man who doesn't mind getting his hands a little dirty. He has played the role many times (The Star Chamber, The Game, Perfect Murder, Disclosure) and in many ways. While it may not always differ his performances are always solid and entertaining. Don't Say A Word is no different. Douglas gives the role his full attention, it's the script that fails him.
Also worth singling out is one of my favorite up and coming actresses, (though I figure she's here to stay myself) Brittany Murphy. I have never been disappointed in a performance by this girl and though she's played the disturbed teenager before (Girl, Interrupted) she really takes this one to the hilt, so much so you are not always sure if you are being played for a sap along with Dr. Conrad or not.
Other cast members, Famke Janssen as Aggie, Dr Conrad's wife who is laid up in bed with a broken leg is, for the most part, on the sidelines of the movie and only reminds us that Hitchcock did this type of thing in Rear Window, and did it better. I like Janssen and there is nothing wrong with her performance here...just a weak script sideline.
As for Sean Bean playing Patrick Koster...he's back doing what he does...play a movie villain, cold, remorseless and he plays it as well and essentially the same as he always does. I can't wait to see him doing something different (like the upcoming Lord of the Rings movie he is in).
Finally, I return to the six figure problem I have with the movie. Warning, if you want to see the movie and not ruin it for yourself, then skip this bit. If you have seen the movie and detect a flaw in my logic, by all means, explain it to me so I'm not as annoyed with this flaw.
Here it is. Patrick Koster knows she has a six figure number in her head. He also knows later to meet Conrad and Burrows in Potter's Field (It's A Wonderful Life reference?) to retrieve this six figure number. 1) How does he know she has a six figure number in her head? And 2) if he knew that, and he knew where to meet them, would he not have been able to put 2 and 2 together, go through old records and find exactly what he was looking for without all the bloodshed and kidnappings?
Still, even with this problem, I didn't hate the movie, for the most part I enjoyed a good deal of it. But little things like that annoy me and take the film as a whole down in my eyes. Besides, I could be wrong and there is a much more plausible explanation that I missed. I doubt it...so prove me wrong.
Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul
Commentary by Gary Fleder, Actor Scene Specific Commentaries by Michael Douglas, Sean Bean, Brittany Murphy, Famke Jansen & Oliver Platt
"Making Of" Featurette
Cinema Master Class
Conversation with Gary Fleder
Screen Tests: Brittany Murphy
2 Multi-Angle Storyboard Scenes
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1
ENGLISH: DTS Surround
SPANISH: Dolby Digital Surround
The DVD Review:
Some of the nice looking features off the top here, scenes specific commentary by all the major actors within the film. Also should be interesting to check out Brittany Murphy's screen test. The woman has been around for more than a decade and still they are screen testing her. Don't ever think the life of an actor is oh, so easy.