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Great ending, but a bit talky and clichéd getting there
Based on the Mary Higgins Clark book of the same name, The Cradle Will Fall tells us the story of Katie DeMaio (Angie Everhart), who unwittingly becomes wrapped up in a complex mystery involving cheating husbands, strange doctors and murder.
Despite never being able to shake its "made for television" feel, the last 20 or 30 minutes of The Cradle Will Fall are quite good--good enough to earn a 9. The ending is suspenseful, well plotted and the staging even has intriguing symbolism. There are all of the requisite elements, such as the explanatory wrap-up, of a traditional, quality mystery film. Unfortunately, although the film is never bad, the rest can't quite live up to the same standard, and viewers have to make it to the end to see an improvement.
The build up is extremely dialogue heavy. At times, you might feel more like you're listening to an audio book. Yes, the plot turns out to be a bit complicated, as a good mystery should (otherwise there isn't much for the viewer/reader to figure out), but it's not so complicated that it can only be told through 60 or 70 minutes of talking. It would have been more interesting to see some of the backstory with the doctors in real time. It would have been more interesting to see a bit of the primary murder. It would have been more interesting to see the meat of investigations taking place rather than just hearing someone tell us about them later. Of course, one needs to keep any action involving crimes ambiguous enough that any number of characters in the film could have done them, and keep secrets ambiguous enough that we can't piece everything together in 15 minutes, but "show don't tell" is very good advice.
It also doesn't help that much of the story is clichéd. I haven't read the Clark novel yet, but I suspect that it's somewhat of a formulaic potboiler. There's nothing inherently wrong with those--they can be a lot of fun to read, and it would be a bit ridiculous to expect every artistic work to be an unprecedented masterpiece, but the by-the-numbers scenarios played without a lot of inspiration in a film do not exactly allow for a high score, either.
The technical elements of the film aren't much to speak of. They're not bad, but nothing particularly stood out about them to me, either, except for during the climax. I can't even remember what the music sounded like, and I just watched the film last night.
Still, The Cradle Will Fall is a decent way to spend a couple hours if you're really into the mystery genre or if you're a big Clark fan (it's also worth noting that Clark's daughter is briefly in the film), a big Angie Everhart fan or even possibly an X Files fan (although you should note that William B. Davis, the X Files' "Cigarette Smoking Man", is not in the film much and doesn't do much when he's there). The ending is definitely worth it, so if you give it a shot and find the first 20 minutes or so at least acceptable, make sure you stick around for the film's length.
It's worth noting that an earlier made for television version of this material appeared in 1983. I have not yet seen that version, which is available on VHS, so I cannot compare the two.
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