Early 20th century England: while toasting his daughter Catherine's engagement, Arthur Winslow learns the royal naval academy expelled his 14-year-old son, Ronnie, for stealing five ... See full summary »
Joe Ross is a rising star. He's designed a process that will make his company millions. He wants a bonus for this work, but fears his boss will stiff him. He meets a wealthy stranger, Jimmy Dell, and they strike up an off-kilter friendship. When the boss seems to set Ross up to get nothing, he seeks Dell's help. Then he learns Dell is not what he seems, so he contacts an FBI agent through his tightly-wound assistant, Susan Ricci. The FBI asks him to help entrap Dell. He accepts, a sting is arranged, but suddenly it's he who's been conned out of the process and framed for murder. Bewildered and desperate, he enlists Susan's aid to prove his innocence. Written by
You heard me. Even if you prefer, say, Kevin Spacey's performance in `The Usual Suspects' to Campbell Scott's here (to each his own), at least this is a film that plays fair with us. We begin at what is, from the protagonist's point of view, the beginning of the tale; things happen that are interesting in their own right and not simply because we know that there's meant to be a mystery lurking somewhere; we are given information as we go along; and later revelations actually explain earlier puzzles. Mamet doesn't force us through a maze. Rather, he lets us watch someone else walk through the maze, and it's a pleasure.
I'm determined not to spoil this pleasure, so I'm unable to say anything at all, really, about what the movie's about. I can't even tell you to what the title refers. I can't even tell you whether it refers to something peripheral or central. I'd better watch my mouth. As the slogan of a poster in the film says, in letters screaming above a drawing of a torpedoed battleship, `Somebody talked.' Not me.
All of the cast turn in good performances - that's right, all of them. I'm tired of remarks about how Rebecca Pidgeon got her role because she's the director's wife. It could well be true, and it could also be true (for all I know) that she's an actress of minor abilities, but her abilities are more than sufficient to make us believe in the character she plays here. How, exactly, is she so very different from Campbell Scott, or from Steve Martin, who, everyone will surely concede, gave the performance of his life? This just isn't the kind of story suited to emoting-while-pretending-not-to acting. All of the characters must dissemble in front of at least one other of the characters (THAT gives nothing away, trust me), and all of them are just a little bit unsettling.
I'll close by putting in a word for Carter Burwell's score. The music consists of a single labyrinthine tune, which twists about until we THINK we've caught it, and then stops: it provides a perfect thumb-nail sketch of the film as a whole. Also like the film as a whole, it's simply fun. Unlike so many directors Mamet doesn't act as if he's working in a disreputable genre, in which it's somehow bad form to allow the audience to have too good a time.
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