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Billy Bob Thornton,
Three diverse characters, for the most part intellectually challenged, find a deserted plane with a bag full of millions of dollars inside. They devise a simple plan to keep the money if no-one claims it. Ofcourse, nothing turns out simple... Written by
A Simple Plan is a film that had immense critical acclaim yet was in limited release. I was eagerly looking forward to this films release seeing as I am a huge Bill Paxton fan, but why wasn't this film in wide release? I was living in Toronto at the time and to find this film I had to go downtown to one very small art house theater. It wasn't at any of the bigger Silver City's. And that is a disappointment. Because this film is amazing. In a way ( I can't believe I'm saying this ) this film reminds me a bit of Star Wars. Only in the sense that I think there is enough intrigue and well developed characters that you could have made a trilogy and prequels out of this. Jacob could have a whole movie made about him. The characters are that rich.
The film starts off with two brothers named Hank and Jacob ( Paxton and Thorton ) and a friend named Lou( Brent Briscoe ) chasing their dog into the forest. As they get deep into the woods, they stumble onto a downed plane. It is here they find the money, the buried treasure to the tune of about 4 million dollars. At first they are talking about how rich they are and what they are going to do with the money. But it is then that Hank says that maybe they should wait a while to see if anyone comes looking for the money before they start to spend it. After all, the plane is snow covered so maybe it has been here for a while so by the end of the winter if no one comes for it, they will keep it. The other two are adamantly against that logic. " This is the American dream, " one of them says. " You work for the American dream, you don't steal it." Hank replies. Then of course all hell is about to break loose.
Suddenly people that lead their lives without much money are consumed with greed and desperation. Hank's wife Sarah, in a great performance by Bridget Fonda, says that she is tired of having to eat dessert at home when they go out for dinner. She wants to provide a nest egg for their soon to be child. Lou owes money to everybody and wants his share of the money now. Jacob wants to fix up his dads farm. The insatiable need for money is driving everyone apart. It is from here that the plot thickens and it is like the layers of an onion. Every time you peel one layer back, there is another layer to deal with, until there is nothing left. And then what happens?
This film works because it has a terrific story but it also works because of the people involved with it. I will first mention Raimi, the man responsible for directing this tangled web. He masterfully strokes every shot perfectly. He gets the feel for a small, cold winter town and he actually makes you shiver inspite of yourself. If anyone is a true horror fan they would have known that Raimi had a ( hidden ) genius. His Evil Dead films ( especially the first one ) really showed that he could direct a tight film and he did a masterful job of scaring you. And that is not easy. There are not many truly scary films out there and Evil Dead is one of them. Here he finally gets his due.
The second person I want to mention is the cinematographer. This is Alar Kivilo's first real foray into film. He has worked mostly in TV and for this to be as well photographed as it is, is a true credit to his ability. Filming in the snow adds many challenges to this aspect of film and he conquers it beautifully. There is one scene where there are a few men heading into the woods to find the plane and all we see is their footprints. This scene reminded me of a similar one in Lawrence Of Arabia. It is executed perfectly and it conveys the feeling of what the scene is supposed to represent.
As for the actors involved, as I said, I am a huge Paxton fan, just as anyone is if you like his portrayal of Chet and Hudson. And he is very good in this film. He has to play the level headed one of everyone involved and he comes across as the torn voice of reason here. But as much as I thought he was excellent in this flick, I have to say that Billy Bob Thorton blew me away. You can feel his pain. You can sense his split loyalty--friendship and brotherhood. Everything that we are supposed to see in him, we do. He really should have won a best supporting actor this year but he had the deck stacked against him seeing that he already has a statue and James Coburn, the veteran that he is, has none. Go figure. Too many politics in the academy, but anyway....
This film examines so many human issues and it asks us to make our own decisions along the way. And the sad reality is maybe we wouldn't make some of the same decisions, but maybe we would have made worse ones as well. It is a tough movie to examine, and that is what ultimately makes it brilliant.
**** Just on a side note here, I just find it amazing how the six degrees of separation works here. Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thorton have known each other for years and they worked together on a similar character study in One False Move. They also briefly had screen time together in Tombstone. ( If you can't figure out who Thornton is in that film, try thinking of Johnny Tyler. He was about 100 pounds heavier than what he is now. ) Raimi and Paxton met on the set of Indian Summer. Raimi had a small role as Stick. So it is kind of nice to see loyalty does perhaps still exist in Hollywood. And I am really glad they met and then hooked up for this project. This is a true definition of a great film.
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