Posts Tagged ‘thriller movie’

Short takes: ‘Unknown,’ ‘The Last Days on Mars’ and ‘Sucker Punch’

April 12, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 12, 2020

Author’s note: By necessity, my review of Sucker Punch deals with sex and sexuality and therefore may not be appropriate for all readers. MEM

Dr. Martin Harris, a mild-mannered, well-to-do university professor from New Hampshire, flies into Berlin with Liz, his beautiful wife; in a few days, he’s going to make a presentation at a prominent biotechnology conference. As Liz checks into the hotel, Martin realizes that his briefcase is missing and hurriedly hops into a cab in an effort to retrieve it. En route to the airport, he’s knocked unconscious during a car accident.

A few days later, Martin awakens from a coma without identification or any memory of how he landed in a hospital bed in a country where he doesn’t speak the language. As he soon learns, he’s also bereft of his spouse and the life he once had. Liz insists that she’s never seen the injured man and that she’s married to a different Dr. Martin Harris. The doppelgänger has the same memories as the injured man; he also has the same souvenirs.

Even accounting for his traumatic brain injury, “Martin Harris” (Liam Neeson of Schindler’s List and Taken) can’t understand why some of his memories of his marriage to Liz (January Jones of X-Men: First Class and Mad Men) are so detailed. What’s more, he’s concerned that a man he’s never met may be trying to kill him…

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David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ explores the complicated saga of a twisted California killer

February 23, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 23, 2018

David Fincher’s sprawling 2007 thriller, Zodiac, tells the true story of the hunt for a notorious California serial killer through the eyes of a cop tasked with finding him and a cartoonist who became obsessed with the case.

The movie begins on the evening of July 4, 1969, when a gunman fatally shot a 22-year-old waitress and seriously wounded her friend in Vallejo, and ends with a short coda in the early 1980s. (This was actually the Zodiac’s second confirmed attack.) Although one of the last scenes shows Mike Mageau, the survivor of that Vallejo incident, identifying a suspect as his assailant, no one was ever formally charged with the Zodiac’s murders.

That lack of closure is one of several frustrating things about Zodiac, which begins as a rather conventional movie about a serial killer and then evolves into something more complicated.

Early on, the narrative focuses on a crime reporter and political cartoonist at San Francisco Chronicle, to which the killer repeatedly sent missives, and depicts a number of vicious attacks. After one of these — the October 11, 1969, killing of cab driver Paul Stine — two San Francisco homicide detectives steal much of the spotlight.

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Policeman, prey, protégée: Christopher Nolan puts Al Pacino in uneasy alliances in the psychological thriller ‘Insomnia’

February 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 21, 2015

When Insomnia opens, renowned homicide detective Will Dormer doesn’t know that his life is spinning out of control. But over the course of Christopher Nolan’s 2002 psychological thriller, Dormer comes to realize that he is a man who is badly lost, in a moral sense if not a geographical one.

Al Pacino headlines the cast as Dormer, a veteran Los Angeles cop who has been dispatched along with his partner to a small Alaska community where the local police are baffled by the murder of a teenager. The unclothed body of the victim, 17-year-old Kay Connell (Crystal Lowe), was found in a garbage dump; the corpse was bathed and otherwise treated in such a fashion that no physical evidence remains to implicate any suspect.

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Murder, he schemed: A bourgeois sociopath strikes again in the masterful ‘Ripley’s Game’

February 12, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 12, 2015

About two-thirds of the way through the 2002 movie Ripley’s Game, after Tom Ripley has snuffed out the lives of a few Eastern European gangsters, his appalled companion notes that he hardly knows the man standing beside him.

This is a statement, not a question, but Ripley — played with a cool detachment by John Malkovich — regards it as an invitation to explain a little about himself. In one of the longest speeches of the movie, Ripley says, “I’m a creation. A gifted improviser. I lack your conscience, and when I was young that troubled me. It no longer does. I don’t worry about being caught because I don’t believe anyone is watching. The world is not a poorer place because those people are dead. It’s one less car on the road. It’s a little less noise and menace.”

Ripley’s nonchalance is both chilling and thrilling. How cold-blooded it is of him to dismiss the deaths as “one less car on the road,” never questioning whether the dead men had a parent or a sibling or a child or a lover who might miss them.

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‘Identity’ is a killer: The zippy murder mystery/psychological thriller that could!

September 29, 2012

The year: 2003. The times: So different from today.

Nine years ago, I had recently finished a master’s degree but not found work at a daily newspaper. (Remember those?!) The Internet had yet to achieve its status as a nearly omnipresent component of first world living, although it was moving in that direction, and Apple was near the beginning of its current unparalleled streak of success. (The iPod was not quite two years old at the time, and not nearly as physically diminutive, digitally capacious or all-around nifty as today’s models.)

Streaming video was then a relatively new feature of the Internet. I remember fiddling around with my computer one night and viewing the different movie previews (trailers, in the biz) on a page on Apple’s website.

One of previews on that page was for Identity, a thriller written by Michael Cooney and directed by James Mangold. I still remember the tag line: “Identity is a killer.”

The preview intrigued me, but I had little intention of seeing the movie. I generally shy away from scary movies, and it was clear that Identity was full of killing. (It’s also very possible that I viewed the preview months after Identity hit theaters — on April 23, 2003, according to

Some months back, I ended up reading the script for Identity on the web, and I enjoyed it. And just the other week, I actually watched the movie — legally, through a streaming video website, as it happens — for the first time.

My verdict? I liked it. It is well paced and hits a variety of notes. Over the course of the story, characters experience confusion, panic, terror, resignation, hope and redemption. A strong cast, led by John Cusack, carries the script through a few weak patches.

The story begins as several cars converge on an isolated Nevada desert motel and are trapped there when the rain washes out the road in two different spots.

Limousine driver Ed (Cusack) is desperate to get help for Alice York, a woman whom he accidentally hit and grievously wounded while driving a shrewish fading actress. But he eventually abandons the effort; the motel is completely cut off, with the storm even disrupting attempts to radio for assistance from a state corrections department vehicle. Read the rest of this entry »

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