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The Vatican sends a priest to verify some miracles, performed by a woman who has been nominated for sainthood. During his investigation, the priest, who is experiencing a crisis of faith, re-discovers his own purpose in life. Written by
Agnieszka Holland's `The Third Miracle' is similar in many ways to one of its film contemporaries, `Stigmata." Both focus on Catholic priests who check out reports of the supernatural. Both are plagued with doubts about the faith, and as a result drink too much. Their superiors are either corrupt or evil-or both. During the course of their investigations, the priests team up with women who are not believers. They fall in love. At the end the priests and women are somewhat redeemed.
The difference in the films is what the two priests are after. In `Stigmata' it is a force that is killing the woman. In `Third' the priest (played by Ed Harris) investigates the credentials of candidates for sainthood. If he can confirm that the candidate is responsible for three miracles, he can recommend that the person be made a saint.
Harris feels guilty because a recent investigation has led to an entire community losing its faith. As a result, he has become known as `the miracle killer.' But in the course of `The Third Miracle's' plot, which focuses on Harris' investigation of a simple woman in 1979 Chicago, he regains his faith.
Convinced that there have indeed been three miracles, Harris must then argue his case before a church tribunal. A skeptical archbishop who is convinced that such a common American woman should not be granted sainthood opposes him.
The climax of the film is predictable-the average moviegoer should be able to see it soon after the archbishop is introduced. Unfortunately, the movie tacks on an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering if the priest and woman's redemption aren't the true miracles.
The film raises a final question: Has Ed Harris ever given a bad performance, or even had a bad scene? He is assisted here by two fine other actors, Anne Heche and Armin Mueller-Stahl.
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