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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
`The Third Miracle' tackles much of the same subject matter as 1999's `Stigmata' but manages to do so without reducing it to the level of horror movie absurdity. The stories of both movies revolve around a doubting, questioning priest whose job it is to investigate and either certify or debunk purported instances of divine intervention. However, `The Third Miracle,' because it treats the material within the context of a serious drama, emerges as by far the more interesting of the two films.
Ed Harris, in a solid performance, stars as the man whose job it is to verify these ostensible miracles but who, like most movie priests it seems, has come to question his faith and to doubt his own worthiness to even carry out the task. Anne Heche delivers her customary fine performance as the cynical daughter of the woman whose potential candidacy for canonization sets the plot in motion. Indeed, the film is at its most intriguing when it allows us to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes nuts-and-bolts machinations that the church uses in determining the viability of sainthood. We watch as the Catholic hierarchy treads the fine line between faith in supernatural intervention and the more worldly concerns of pragmatic politics. We see the petty jealousies, character attacks and power struggles that reduce even the most ethereal of ventures to the level of basic human frailty. In many ways, this broader conflict reflects the one which rages on a more intimate, personal level within the tortured psyche of Harris' character himself. It is his internal struggle between doubt and faith, between the physical and the spiritual, between strength and weakness that manages to keep the many strands of the plot together even when the film, at times, verges a bit on the banal and the tedious. Happily, too, the film does not succumb to the fashionable secular cynicism that is all too common in films today. `The Third Miracle' manages to explore the many-sided complexity of this issue without trashing the spiritual nature of the topic in the process.
`The Third Miracle' is not by any stretch a great film, but it succeeds in exploring a tricky subject without insulting the intelligence of the audience along the way. After `Stigmata,' we offer our most humble thanks for that.
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