The Clearing (2004) Poster

(2004)

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7/10
Well Acted, Well Crafted and Yet a Little Disappointing.
MichaelMargetis2 April 2005
A great deal of viewers will pan The Clearing for being too "not down to the point", an intelligent suspense thriller about a wealthy man (Redford) kidnapped by an angry ex-employee (Dafoe) and held for ransom until the rich business owner's wife (Mirren) pays the price. Although The Clearing is creatively put together, I just doesn't get right down to the point. What you expect it to be is a kidnapping thriller but it turns into mostly a big discussion between Redford's character and Dafoe's character. Not that that is an insult to the film, their discussions are very carefully and skillfully written, it is just that we are expecting this movie to go places, it doesn't go.

The other half of the film consists of Mirren's character dealing with the F.B.I. and the kidnapper to get back her beloved husband. Her part of the film also consists of her chats with her two grown –up children (played by Laurel Canyon's Alessandro Nivola and Soul Survivor's Melissa Sagemiller) who are visiting from out of town to comfort their mother in her time of need. The scenes of dialogue between Mirren and her son are very engrossing due mostly to the fact that Nivola is a great actor. However, the scenes of dialogue between Mirren and her daughter are perhaps the most tedious parts of the film, due mainly to the fact that Sagemiller is not a good actress, and unfortunately we get to see more of the scenes between Mirren and her daughter, then scenes with Mirren and her son. The most intriguing of Mirren's interactions of the film, is that of her and the F.B.I. agent in charge of getting back her husband, played by Matt Craven in one of his very best roles. In a whole, The Clearing is a film about interactions rather than actions.

The most rewarding element of Pierre Jan Brugge's The Clearing, is perhaps the acting. All three leads are pitch perfect in their roles, with talent to spare. Robert Redford gives us another great performance that was long awaited. Willem Dafoe is priceless and the meticulous and spooky kidnapper. I think Dafoe's role is the most interesting out of the bunch, but maybe unintentionally. In the hostage scenes with Dafoe and Redford, you're supposed to pay close attention to Redford's stories, but Dafoe's reactions to the stories turn out to be way more interesting. I think the best performance in The Clearing (which may be honored with an Oscar or at least Golden Globe nomination) is Helen Mirren as the intensely worried housewife of Robert Redford. She reels you into to feeling her emotions about this horrible and stressful situation. It takes real talent for an actress to do it, but it takes even more talent for an actress to do this without opening her mouth. That is what Helen Mirren achieves in this film, among many others she's been featured in over the years.

The ending of The Clearing is very disappointing. Although, it's realistic and not hokey, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. In the last fifteen minutes of the movie they lead you down the garden path into believing everything will be made clear at the end, and don't go through with it. The ending of the film will sit with you better a day after you've seen the picture then it will two seconds after the credits start rolling. You'll realize this was a smart unexpected way to end it, and that it was okay to not add everything up, because in real life not everything always adds up. I think the people who would be most disappointed in The Clearing, are those who watch a lot of television during the week. The reason being is that on television everything is neatly put together in a package and there are no loose ends in the final moments, but on film that doesn't always happen. I think film scholars would appreciate The Clearing substantially more than then the general public.

In closing, this is a good, not great, but good film from first time filmmaker Pierre Jan Brugee. Brugee does a sensational job for his first picture, and presents himself like he's been doing film-making all his life. He is a very bold filmmaker, with a lot of confidence that I'd like to see more of in the not-to-distant future. (review written 8/16/04) Grade: B (screened at AMC Deer Valley 30, Phoenix, Arizona)
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8/10
A meditation on loss and regret
howard.schumann12 July 2004
Wayne and Eileen Hayes appear to be the ideal couple. They have a successful business, live in a wealthy Pittsburgh suburb, and have two well-adjusted grown children. But when Wayne is kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom by a former employee, cracks in their armor begin to show. Based on the kidnapping of a Dutch industrialist, Pieter Jan Brugge's The Clearing shows two different takes on the American dream.

Robert Redford plays Wayne, a self-made car-rental executive who has become emotionally estranged from his wife and children. Willem Dafoe plays Arnold Mack, an unemployed man who sees himself as a failure and is unable to handle the success of his one-time employer. The film tells parallel stories that operate in different time frames, a unique device that deepens the puzzle. One thread revolves around Wayne, handcuffed and held at gunpoint by Arnold, being led through an area near the Great Smoky Mountains. The other revolves around Eileen (Helen Mirren) and her interactions with FBI investigator Ray Fuller (Matt Craven) who has set up his unit as a control center inside the Hayes home while the couple's children look on.

Redford is outstanding as the intense business tycoon, and Mirren gives one of her best performances, portraying a tightly controlled suburbanite wife who refuses to panic even when her husband misses a dinner party she told him to be on time for. She keeps going even when it is obvious that something has gone wrong -- swimming in her pool, holding a birthday party for her grandchild, and waiting before calling the police because she thinks that her husband may have left her. Eileen discovers through the FBI search of phone records that her husband has continued seeing another woman, a relationship he'd told her was broken off. She visits Wayne's mistress (Wendy Crewson), and retains her composure, showing emotion only in the way that she purses her lips. Always self-assured, she wants to know only where their trysts had taken place and what gifts he had brought her.

As Wayne and his abductor walk through the forest, they engage in conversations about their lives and about opportunity in America. Wayne says that he made himself what he is today, and that Arnold had the same opportunity but failed. Both play a cat-and-mouse game, but treat each other with grudging respect, and it is clear that they've both paid a price. Wayne admits that his he has lost the love of his wife because of his overindulgence in his work, and the lack of attention he paid to his children. He tells Arnold, "I love my wife... we have two beautiful kids, and I'm just getting to know them."

The Clearing is a quiet, thoughtful film that slowly builds suspense that is not released until the very end. Although there are some contrivances in the plot, the acting is superb throughout and the film works as a psychological thriller, a meditation on loss and regret, and a character study of two flawed but loving people who have forgotten how to express their joy in living.
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7/10
A great character driven caper
gregsrants29 June 2004
Robert Redford is an icon. From the same DNA strand as Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood, younger viewers might not be as versed as to their contributions over the past fifty years of film. In fact, when I asked a just 20-something person at the office about Mr. Redford, I got films like The Last Castle, Spy Games and The Horse Whisperer as their reference to the name. No Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. No The Candidate, and I won't even begin to explain the bewildered expression I received when I mentioned All The President's Men.

Based on this ignorance (the word sounds a lot stronger than it is intended), I don't expect to see the character driven The Clearing burning up the box office figures when it is released amongst a host of summer blockbusters. With it's three main stars being in their 40's, 50's and 60's, I expect that younger audiences might prefer some strange movie about a radioactive spider bitten school boy that opens the same week-end.

The Clearing is a story about a successful businessman, Wayne (Redford), who is kidnapped by down on his luck Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe) and held for a ransom of $10 million in a secluded forest. Motive being solely money and a second chance at life, Arnold toys with Wayne's wife Eileen (Helen Mirren) and the F.B.I. sending them clues and cryptic instructions in efforts to secure his bounty. Like most kidnapping films, the movie can only end one of two ways really, and don't expect that to be revealed here.

The Clearing is not the first kidnapping movie and will be far from the last. Sometimes it is done well (Man on Fire), sometimes bad (Proof of Life) and most times, Hollywood and test audiences determine the ending or the amount of drama they will allow their leading cast to perform (Ransom).

That is why The Clearing was, well…refreshing. As a small, independent film, The Clearing doesn't have to answer to the harsh brass that sway their approach based on night vision goggles in darkened theaters. It can tell a story the way the filmmaker intended; raw, intense and without all the loose ends tied up like a front of the tree Christmas present.

Instead, director Pieter Jan Brugge can let his actors do what they do best and wow us with the way they work a camera and capture an audience using a look or a sneer. Pieter assembled the perfect cast for his directorial debut. Dafoe is subtle as the kidnapping brainchild, but he is also able to project a vulnerability that could have been awfully laughable in the hands of a lesser actor. Redford, coming off two paycheck roles in Spy Game and The Last Castle, is equally convincing as a man flawed in character and without excuses. When Wayne is confronted about his infidelity, he doesn't try to skirt the issue and there are no attempts to justify the action. Instead, his deep blue eyes are able to relay back to the audience that of a man who wishes things could have been different and who seems genuinely concerned about the hurt he may have caused others.

But maybe the best acting within the films running time is in the performance of Helen Mirren. Having to deal with the uncertainty of her husband, the confrontation with his mistress and an F.B.I. agent that tends to cause more harm than benefit, Mirren projects a woman of strength and stamina that is believable in her actions and in her approach to finding a fitting conclusion to the complex ordeal. Handling the situation with class and grace, yet frequently in panic over the possibilities, Mirren gives what is undoubtedly her strongest on screen performance in the past 10 years.

It was a bit of a surprise in 2004 when The Clearing appeared at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Not that it isn't the type of film that these festivals build their foundations upon, but the fact that this was the first starring vehicle for Redford to be shown at the festival to which he created. Looking at his last 10 or so role choices, a better selection could not have been made.

So for any of you younger folk that might find themselves to the end of this review, do yourself a favor and start to amass a viewing catalog that will include Redford, Newman and Eastwood while we still have time to enjoy their continued efforts. These great men might never be equaled. Heck, you don't expect one day to see an Adam Sandler Salad Dressing do you?
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7/10
intriguing story of a marriage
blanche-227 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This movie stars one of my all-time favorite actresses, Helen Mirren, and one of my all-time favorite hunks, Robert Redford. Mirren never disappoints, and in this film, she gives a gentle, controlled performance of a woman who looks back on her marriage as she is faced with losing her husband. As for Redford, well, his hunk days are long over. Over the years that show so very clearly on his face, he has become a much more relaxed actor. Here he gives a striking performance of a man who stares death in the face as contemplates his life. Both Redford and Mirren are ably assisted by Willem Dafoe as a kidnapper, a man who lives in a house full of "disappointed people." This isn't a happy film, yet it doesn't leave one in despair because two people, though separated, are able to find each other again. The pace is on the slow side - rather, the pace isn't pushed. But it kept me interested and invested in all of the characters, even the FBI man, throughout. The ending is particularly poignant.
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5/10
Downbeat Lackluster Bemoanings
LeonLouisRicci31 January 2013
A low-key Suspenser emphasizing empathetic concerns at the expense of a more driving narrative. It is a talky affair with downbeat discussions and attention to melodramatic detail. The movie suffers and suffocates in its own self-consciousness and less than explanatory story.

It is a somewhat engaging affair of character flaws with a forever slow and steady pulse that builds some tension but never allows access to the deep demands of the style it presents.

The ending is better than the rest but is still quite unsatisfying and leaves the viewer unfulfilled with frustrations from the lackluster bemoaning's from listless and less than interesting people.
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7/10
Not so bad
toddinvestor2 January 2005
After all of the negative reviews I read about this movie, it was with reluctance and groaning that I agreed to watch it when my wife picked it out. I fully expected a bomb. What a pleasant surprise. "The Clearing" is, as many have pointed out, a slower moving film. Just because there is no action does not mean a film is bad. "The Clearing" is a drama with two story lines moving along in parallel. There is interesting dialogue building up to an uncertain climax. "The Clearing" held my interest and developed suspense. With an only 90 minute running time, I kept wondering how they were going to wrap everything up. And that is the strength of this movie. It is not formulaic. You will not guess the ending. All of the loose ends in both plot and character development come to a conclusion in the final minutes. All in all, much better than expected and well worth renting. 7/10
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Kidnapping as Cross-Class Conflict
noralee15 July 2004
"The Clearing" is a taut, suspenseful kidnapping story.

But the tension is primarily ratcheted up not by action, but what we learn what stuff each of the characters is made of, particularly as to how superbly Helen Mirren and Willem Dafoe surround Robert Redford.

Ironically, Mirren's husband Taylor Hackford directed a more muddled take on a very similar story line in "Proof of Life," which couldn't decide if it was an action movie or a drama. Here first-time writer Justin Haythe and director Pieter Jan Brugge are more focused, even while playing a few tricks on the viewer with time-shifting "Rashomon" rewinds, though there are a couple of questionable holes in the story as it takes surprising directions.

It's a relief to finally see Redford in a role fitting his age, with an age-appropriate spouse and adult children, including Alessandro Nivola not playing his usual sensual snake. It's nice to see Mirren get to play an attractive, rich matron who can carry off nice clothes and hair styles as she usually hides herself in her roles.
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5/10
Totally unforgivable moment (SPOILER alert)
couzijn2 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
What appears to be an intriguing and well-acted movie is totally spoiled for me in an instant when Wayne strangles Arnold in an attempt to escape (at 1h 10min in the movie), then turns his back on him so that the semi-dead Arnold can 'surprisingly' come to life again, immediately finds his gun somewhere down in the mud pool, and regains control of the situation. Whatever realism or credibility the director has built in the past hour, is for me immediately lost in that scene. Why do (US?) audiences always put up with the crappy idea of 'the killer suddenly coming back to life again', and why do directors always make heroes look the other way when they make this happen? What an unforgivably cheap trick. For this reason only, my rating falls back from 8 to 5.
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10/10
Do you love me?
film-critic31 March 2005
This was, hands down, the biggest surprise of a film that I have encountered in a very long time. I had to watch this film twice to fully understand and appreciate the value placed behind it. The Clearing was one of those films that didn't do well at the box-office, so people didn't bother seeing it when it was released on video. I must admit, I was one of them. I thought Redford and Dafoe doing another classic kidnapping film would be just another canister in the Hollywood recycling bin, but I was wrong … actually, I was dead wrong. This film brought more than just a kidnapping caper to the table, it brought some family drama, the unbreakable bond between husband and wife, and the idea of the American Dream as told by two ends of the spectrum. I can see why this film didn't do well with the brainwashed by action/adventure crowd, because there actually needed to be some thinking involved to truly appreciate this captivating film.

To begin, this is not a linear story. I loved this. It kept me guessing throughout the entire film as to what was happening to Redford's character while the drama at home continued to build. Here we have the events happening to Redford going on in real time and how the pressures of the immediate threat are being handled, but then you have the family struggle, which is taking place over several days to show how easily something like this can devastate and ravish a family. This also allowed us to become more emotionally attached to Redford's family as well as to Redford himself. Strangely, I found myself equally attached to Willem Dafoe's character due to my experience living in the middle of the income line. There seemed to be some honesty and truth in the banter between Redford and Dafoe that I honestly never saw coming. Here we had two humans out in nature discussing life and death as if this was their final moments on the planet. We had front row seats with the ability to hear how these two grown men handled the stress of their day to day activities, and how we could somehow relate.

This was a film about relating, about understanding the pressures that these individual people were experiencing. Redford was perfect, as this tired father who lusts for life, but just doesn't quite show it until the final moments are settling in. Dafoe should have won an Oscar for his role in this film as a very humble kidnapper who takes pride in what he is doing as well as does it with the highest amount of kindness in his heart. He does it for his wife. This brings a smile on my face to say, but this is a film about wives. Each of these men are going through life to ensure that their wife stays happy and in love with them. Dafoe thinks it can happen by having enough money so his wife will not work, Redford sees it too late and reminds his wife of a happy time in their marriage. It is sad, from one married man to another it is a very personal and touching story about the woman that is your soul mate. Then, as if director Pieter Jan Brugge, didn't stab our hearts enough, he gives us this expanded look at Redford's family and the inner struggles they are facing with not knowing if their father is alive.

What is so interesting about this is that before this event took place, there was not much of a family dynamic going on in Redford's house. They were stale, and strangely this horrific event brought them closer together than imagined. We get to see the unparalleled emotion behind Helen Mirren that I have not seen in a very long time. If she would not have done this film than Charlotte Rampling would have equally been as good … in fact, I kept thinking of her in this role and how skilled she would have been. Don't get me wrong, Mirren was perfect, but Rampling would have been perfection.

Add to this mix some beautiful cinematography that adds to both the tension and beauty of the story. Some of the scenes with Dafoe and Redford in the woods were so crisp and bold that I thought I was right there in the woods with them. The way that Pieter Jan Brugge doesn't keep the camera directly on our actors just builds more tension and more excitement along the way. I thought this was a brilliant film that should have received more attention than what was given to it. I realize that some will find it slow and methodical, but I found it this stunning portrait of the American family and American dream bundled up in the strangest of forms, a kidnapping film. There was definitely some creativity at work here, and the final product shows us that!

Grade: ***** out of *****
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3/10
Waste of good talent
secordman13 March 2005
I wanted to like this film, and certainly there is room for a psychological character-driven movie which doesn't go for the cheap thrills. Yet, for the enjoyment of a movie, one requires a believable plot, some pacing and editing, and a feeling of involvement. In The Clearing, what starts out as an intriguing mystery, with a kidnapping and unknown motives, turns into a slow draggy pointless exercise. Nothing much really happens, and the so-called character-driven angles (as expressed by the director in his commentary) really don't add up to much.

Fine actors are wasted here. Robert Redford does his best trying to engage and outwit Willem Dafoe. Dafoe brings a bit of nuance to his character, insofar as one can feel somewhat sympathetic towards him. It's unfortunate that Dafoe has been typecast as a villain, he's gone into the Christopher Walken Hall of Fame of Typecasting.

Wendy Crewson is usually good but her character's entry into the movie was brief and contrived, and I was wondering why they even bothered to introduce her character. By far the biggest waste of talent was Helen Mirren. In the director's commentary, all I heard was how fabulous a talent she is. I agree, she's a great actress. Then why was she not used properly? Only towards the climax of this movie does she get to show herself, but by then the viewer has quit caring.

Too bad, I liked parts of this movie, but as another reviewer wrote, once you're halfway in you know the film is not going to get much better.
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6/10
Inspired Cast, Middling Script Adds Up To Watchable
museumofdave8 May 2013
Redford, Mirren and Dafoe could read a seed catalog and make it fascinating, so this beginner's exercise in suspense and character is not a dull film if you keep that in mind; Roger Ebert mentioned that he could not see the conclusion coming--it was evident to me in the first ten minutes, the set-up with life-styles certainly leading the plot development: the worker bee on the public bus and the king of the hill with his swimming pool and doting wife neatly contrasted from the get-go.

Because this is not primarily a violent film, but a character study, some may find the close-ups and studied manner of worried wife Mirren dull, but it is really the screenplay that needs some intensity and tension as the two men square off in the woods; their chatter is oddly pedestrian. There are moments worth watching here, but The Clearing fails to fully deliver on its promise
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fine movie
deadbull-9517118 June 2019
I'm 66 so more or less grew up watching the arc of Redford's career. Helen Mirren is a wonderful actress. Sometimes I pay attention to irrelevant things...like how well older actors and actresses keep their looks etc. Mirren to me looks beautiful....not like she did as a very young person....but I seethe young person inside the older person with all the knowledge and characters that inform her person now...which adds to her beauty. So I admire these two terrific actors for their work and also on a personal agenda level that I relate to my own experience getting old. In that way it encourages me....I could not act my way out of a paper bag so I do not envy them on a professional level....I think as we/they age, if their good, as these 2 obviously are, they learn how to deeply and more or less seamlessly incorporate things they have come to personally learn in their everyday lives into the roles they adopt, so, more and more, you see who they actually are, when they stylize personal realities into 'roles'. So, though here's a well crafted plot, it's more a character driven film...more about responses to a horrendous situation then the situation itself. For me, this is more interesting, the human angle, then bang-bang bs. which this could easily have been...as we see in several other high suspense, action driven kidnap scenarios....
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3/10
There Are Good Reasons This Film Bombed
ccthemovieman-129 March 2006
Now I know why this movie can be bought for so cheap at the video stores. I was curious since it had three big-name stars yet was among the 'B' movies that the video apparently can't even give away! The answer is, it is a film that would attract a very limited audience: an over-50 crowd with very Liberal sensibilities.

Who else who watch Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe and Helen Mirren give, essentially, a basic message that "cheating on your wife is okay so long as you still love her." That's the nice "feel-good message" here, particularly at the end at the end of this strange kidnapping story. Who wrote this script.....Bill Clinton?

I say "strange" because the kidnapper is the nicest kidnapper (Dafoe) you've ever seen, except at the end. He unties his hostage (Redford) frequently, which no kidnapper would risk, has casual conversations about family matters, etc. It's all ludicrous! Well, the L.A. Times says it's "an intelligent thriller." Ha ha. Well, that confirms what most people know of the L.A. Times. For those of you who believe that, and haven't seen it, I won't spoil it with more of the gigantic holes in this story, particularly at the end. The fact is, it's an insult to anyone with intelligence.

Anyway, you can't fool all the people all the time, as critics have yet to figure out. Here is another film they touted that justifiably bombed at the box office and video store.
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5/10
interesting but needs greater intensity
SnoopyStyle31 May 2015
Wayne (Robert Redford) and Eileen Hayes (Helen Mirren) live a comfortable upper class life in Pittsburgh high class suburb. They have two grown children (Alessandro Nivola, Melissa Sagemiller). Then Wayne disappears. He's been kidnapped by former employee Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe). The FBI investigates which reveals Wayne's ongoing affair. Eventually Arnold demands a ransom.

The movie lacks the normal intensity. It's filled with a lot of the inbetween moments. It's a style that keeps the tension simmering at low. There are great actors here and it's fascinating to see them interact. There is also a timeline split going on. It's a great idea but it needs some more thought on its execution. This movie just needs greater intensity.
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6/10
Average, but quite engrossing at times
Aly2005 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Not quite your average kidnapping drama in this relatively unknown film from the mid-2000s, but be prepared for intense moments. Loosely based on an actual murder case from Brazil, Pieter Jan Brugge directs an A-list cast in the story of a businessman abducted by a vengeful engineer while the businessman's wife awaits the safe return of her kidnapped husband.

Robert Redford takes on the role of the kidnapped victim, Wayne Hayes, a successful businessman whose life is rockier than most people know. We learn he had cheated on his loving wife with a younger woman and has a strained relationship with wife Eileen and their two grown children. Redford brings his usual gravitas to the role, but manages to inject a vulnerability of sorts into Wayne; demonstrating what a disadvantage he is at in the hands of his captor. However the actor brings an intelligence that combats the ideals held by his kidnapper and challenges the odds of survival at every turn in order to escape. Wayne nearly bests his captor at every chance he gets, the only resource at his disposal to try and survive.

Future Oscar winning actress Helen Mirren portrays Redford's wife, Eileen, though not quite with the same talent the British star is known for. We know very little about Eileen besides what we see from her role as wife and mother, but her background is left obscured from us. Eileen does maintain calm under the initial pressure of Wayne's kidnapping thanks to Mirren's trademark stoicism, but eventually the gravity of the situation dawns on her and Eileen begins to worry more and more. We watch as Eileen must confront the demons of her husband's infidelity which doesn't give Eileen much closure in the matter, but eases her guilt. It's truly haunting to see a strong actress like Helen Mirren break down by the film's end when she realizes what has happened to the husband she supported and loved.

Playing the role of the kidnapper is the ever reliable Willem Dafoe. Here the actor brings a restraint to the part of disgruntled former engineer Arnold Mack. There are some secrets hidden away in Dafoe's performance as throughout the film, we begin to uncover Arnold's reasons for disliking Redford's Wayne even after there is an uneasy trust built between them, but we don't quite learn exactly why Arnold has kidnapped Wayne. However it soon becomes clearer through the subtlety of Dafoe's performance and the actor's trademark intensity (which is kept low-key without ever veering into over the top) why Arnold has done what he's done and it becomes a matter of time wondering whether the desperate engineer will kill his captive, will Wayne kill Arnold or is Wayne gonna make it out? Again the narrative is based on an actual case that ended tragically. The movie does a mediocre job at replicating the events in a loose fashion, but thanks to the acting talent involved it is watchable and engaging. The dialogue between actors Robert Redford and Willem Dafoe is well written, giving small insights into their characters and ramps up the tension as we follow them further and further into the woods.

A good little thrill ride.
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7/10
Sophisticated thriller
DLyman144420 January 2004
My wife and I saw this movie at the Sundance Film festival and were very entertained with it. A wealthy businessman played by Robert Redford is kidnapped by a loser played by Willem Defoe. This is a very low key movie that lets the suspense build slowly until the climax. The characters are realistic and the plot is believable. Screen play has some twists which were not overdone. Robert Redford and Willem Defoe were both at their best. Wife's part played by Helen Mirren was one of the most difficult emotionally and she showed an outstanding performance. Overall the cast's acting was very good. If you like sophisticated thrillers you shouldn't miss this one.
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5/10
Based on the Gerrit Heijn kidnapping in 1987.
vanoostende24 August 2015
I was watching this movie and everything reminded me of the Gerrit Heijn kidnapping in the Netherlands in 1987. I even regognised the road and the bridge where the murder took place. It is near Wolfheze in the woods, just next to the A12 highway from Utrecht to Arnhem. I could find no credits anywhere and only one mention on Wikipedia. I can only suspect the family never gave permission for this movie. And I believe they are right. All the characters are flat and there is no depth in them. This movie could not hold my attention and I think it was a waste of time on three great actors. We have a Dutch saying: Shoemaker stay with your own tools, meaning you should always stick with what you do best. This is so true for Pieter Jan Brugge. A good producer does not make a good director
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It's not worth the ransom of a box office ticket if you are interested in a creative kidnapping film.
jdesando4 July 2004
Robert Redford is a brave actor: He allows multiple close-ups of his weathered and saggy 60 something face to play a kidnapped husband and father in director Pieter Jan Brugge's (produced 'Insider') 'The Clearing.' The intimate shots of him and his wife, the estimable Helen Mirren ('Calendar Girls'), almost 60 and less-aged than her outdoorsman leading man, help support the theme about what disruption can do to challenge the love of two people, regardless of their wealth and personal crises.

'The Clearing' is a garden-variety kidnap movie whose distinctions are its splendid photography by Denis Lenoir ('Demonlover') and actorly moments between Redford and his captor, played by Willem Dafoe ('Spiderman 2'). Dafoe plays the standard 'outsider' who changes things, much as Sergei Lopez did in the almost-abduction 'With a Friend Like Harry,' except that 'Clearing' lacks the tension of 'Harry' and is formulaic and emotionless, reflecting the refined and restrained husband and wife. 'Ransom,' 'Proof of Life,' and 'Man on Fire' further show how difficult it is to make successful abduction films.

As the 'action' moves to the conclusion, a sentiment about the riches of love saves the film from imitating most made-for-TV movies: 'If you love me, I have everything' Redford exclaims in the denouement. The couple's observable worldly wealth is the litmus for their inner wealth, and the latter is the winner. Until the 'clearing' of their life down to its essentials, they cannot know what 'everything' is.

However it takes a determined kidnapper to clear the decks. The couple fulfills the definition of what Lawrence K. Frank described in maturation as 'relinquishing, rejecting of what has been painfully learned in order to establish a new and replacing pattern.' It's just that this kidnapper is determined to keep that replacement time short.

'The Clearing' is not worth the ransom of a box office ticket if you are interested in a creative kidnapping film; for the first-rate acting and cinematography, it can be tolerable.
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7/10
three great performances for a greatly-acted and involving thriller
antoniotierno10 March 2005
It's definitely a wonderfully thoughtful and engrossing film that leaves a very strong imprint on the viewers. Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and Willem Dafoe give three engaging and rewarding performances in this carefully constructed frame. It got nothing of the usual vulgar melodrama and gets to describe the whole situation in a flawlessly realistic way. It was obviously difficult to handle such a dramatic subject showing things happening before, during and after the kidnapping but without taking the risk of being banal. In "The Clearing" they made it, telling the almost not existing American dream (beautiful family, wealth and so on) turning into a living nightmare.
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1/10
An incoherent mess
gletzes25 March 2005
After reading many good things about it ,i finally watched "the clearing".With a cast of great actors like Redford and Dafoe ,one would,at least, expect a decent film.After the closing credits had rolled i was still shocked by how bad and incoherent this movie actually was.

Is it supposed to be an "art" film??I don't think so cause it is too melodramatic for that.The bad thing is that the drama seems way too forced and unrealistic.

The truth is that the script makes absolutely no sense.First of all it never really explains the motive behind the actions of any of the characters,it just overblows their so called "personal issues".What's so bad about Redford's character's life that he has to "clear it"??The fact that he cheats,occasionally,his wife??The guy is a millionaire who has had a good life,has a great son and a great daughter,a wife that loves him(and a girlfriend that also seems to be way above the generic mistress type of woman)o and a new-born grandson.The only problem seems to be that he...has been working hard for all his life to be a successful person.So what??It seems that his hard work has really paid off and there's actually no real problems with his life.

Then we come to Dafoe's character:here's someone who was a manager for one of Redford's companies and was fired.Why is this guy unemployed for ...eight years???It seems that he must have some kind of good education to have a job like the one he had in the first place and seems to have been a man with solid ideas about his work(as evident by his flashback of a conversation that he had with Redford when he was working for him).Why couldn't a man like that get a decent job and have a decent life??Cause he was ,once,fired??Totally unrealistic.

The film really tries to portray these men as "tortured souls" or something and that comes off as really cheesy.In fact i would say that if the creators of this film were trying to say something about the American dream then they failed miserably.

As for the actual events that take place during the movie ,they also make no sense at all.In fact the last 20 minutes of the film come off as an insult to the viewer's intelligence,because there's not one thing that takes place that actually makes any sense.Redford seems to have about a 1000 chances to escape ,yet he doesn't.At one moment he is ready to escape and yet he misses his chance cause he feels sorry for his kidnapper and doesn't want to hurt him!!!Then Dafoe picks up his gun from the water and the mud,which should be useless(if you fire a shot with a gun after the gun has been in the water and mud it will possibly blow up in your face)and the gun is in perfect condition!!! The way an unemployed ,useless(as portrayed in this film) and mentally unstable character,manages to outsmart the entire FBI with such ease brings the narrative of this film to "twilight zone" levels.The cheesy ending(with Redford's wife illusion) comes to finish the viewer off.

This film pretends to be something,it's not(i.e a quality,sophisticated psychological thriller).Unfortunately it fails so hard,that it becomes a disaster and that's the word that describes this film best:A DISASTER.
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7/10
pretty good psychological thriller - possible spoilers!
dromasca8 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Let me say that I liked this film first of all because of Helen Mirren. I love her work, and she is very good every time I see her. Mirren is one of the best in a generation of aging female stars, slowly losing her glamor looks in the youth years but achieving a maturity and deepness only a great actress has. One of her best roles was in a BBC TV series where she played the role of the chief detective in a macho police environment. I am mentioning this because her acting in the 'Clearing' is good to the same extent, and that maybe because of her, because the film inherits something of the quality of the BBC series.

'The Clearing' is a psychological thriller, and action movie fans will be disappointed, because not too much happens and what happens is not too original. A successful businessman (Redford) is kidnapped by a former co-worker (Willem Dafoe) whose life was much less lucky and successful. The story splits immediately between the agony of the wife (Mirren) and of the rest of the family waiting for signs of life, coping with the FBI investigation and agonizing around the ransom demands, and the traumatic experience of the kidnap and relationship being built between the kidnapped and the kidnapper. It's after a while that you realize that the apparent parallel plans happen at different time paces. The true relation that builds in the movie is between the kidnapped man and his wife, who are together only shortly at the beginning, their love being given a new birth by the traumatic events.

It may be that the end of the film is somehow melodramatic and too much on the expected side relative to the tension built previously by the apparently parallel story lines. This makes the film an experience that is not too exciting, but still satisfying if you like well acted psychological thrillers. 7 out of 10 on my personal scale.
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5/10
SLOW MOVING STORY
iohefy-215 August 2004
Two of my favorite actors were in this film, and when I got tickets for the preview I was thrilled. I just love Helen Mirren and Robert Redford, but it did not take me long to fidget in my seat, as this was a long, slow moving movie that just seemed to drag on and on. Neither of my two stars could help this feeble story. What has happened to the screen writers of old, they can't all be dead. What we need is a new crop of screen writers that can really write.
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6/10
Just another kidnap flick
=G=12 November 2004
"The Clearing" is about a wealthy man (Redford) who is as tentative about his marital relationship as he is sure about being kidnapped. The film doddles through the usual stuff....woebegone wife (Mirren) summons family, ransom demands, FBI strategizing, ransom delivery, etc. while the kidnapper (Dafoe) makes small talk with the victim. All the while, we, the audience, bear witness to more filler than substance as we wonder if the victim will be delivered alive or dead. Nicely filmed and well acted, this flick amount to little more than the usual three star film fare making for a mildly entertaining watch. No cure for ADD but watchable fodder best saved for the small screen. (B-)
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3/10
Lack-luster and uninspired
Spaceygirl28 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"The Clearing" is a lack-luster, uninspired and ultimately boring film. Having secured talent such as Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe, Helen Mirren and the delectable Allesandro Nivola, Taylor Hackford clearly gave no more thought to the script. These heavy-weights are let down by poor material, the script is plodding and predictable and at times surprisingly implausible. Robert Redford bravely lets his age show in this film, the camera zooming in several times to show his lined, weather-beaten countenance. Helen Mirren on the other hand is radiant as his long-suffering wife and Willem Dafoe is predictably good as the bumbling would-be villain. Allesandro puts in a good little performance as the son who doesn't let his grief show in front of this mother and sister.

Where the film fails is in its implausibility: The mother and sister take a swim the morning after Robert Redford's character is kidnapped, the home is empty of the token FBI agents and Helen Mirren's character seems strangely devoid of emotion.

All in all, "The clearing" leaves one feeling cold and is extremely unsatisfying in its execution.
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6/10
Partly successful attempt at a dramatic thriller
The_Void17 May 2006
What we have here is a film that tries to be a clever A-class movie, but ends up being more of a somewhat entertaining drama bolstered by a small helping of decent enough performances. It's rather sad to see a film that so obviously wants to be great, fail; but at least director Pieter Jan Brugge can have something to be proud of, as the film moves well and provides a decent ninety minutes of entertainment. The Clearing attempts to analyse the idea of kidnapping from every angle, and provides the audience with three strong central characters from which this theme is generated. We got the businessman at the centre of the piece; a man that has worked for everything he owns and has the ability to make everyone around him feel special. His wife provides the main meat of the story, as the film spends a lot of time analysing her heartbreak as she learns that the man she loves has been taken by a kidnapper, and then we've got the catalyst; the kidnapper himself - an insecure man with his own motives. That's pretty much all there is to the plot, as despite a few small twists; what you see with The Clearing is what you get.

The acting is one of the major elements in a film like this; and it's a mixed bag. Robert Redford is the weak link, as while he looks the part; he doesn't do anything to convince the audience that he's the strong man the other characters say he is, and it ultimately harms the film. William Dafoe is typecast as the villain, and does well with a role that he's played many times before. Like Redford, he never really convinces the audience that he is who is he says he is; but that's a fault that can be aimed at the script, not the actor. Helen Mirren rounds off central the cast and gives the best performance as the grieving wife. Her role isn't very well rounded, but she delivers her lines with real emotion. The plotting is very relaxed; perhaps a little too relaxed given that this is supposed to be a thriller, and it seems obvious that the writer's couldn't decide whether they wanted to make a heavyweight drama or a thriller, and that comes across. The ideas of loss and regret that run alongside the plot work well, mostly thanks to Mirren, and while I can't say that this is a great movie; I did, at least, enjoy watching it.
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