Callum Keith Rennie

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008, Chris Carter)

I can understand why Chris Carter and company made X-Files: I Want to Believe (though not the title), but I can’t understand why Fox produced it. The film was a significant bomb, even if it didn’t cost very much, and some critics dismissed it as an episode turned into a feature. It’s anything but… instead, it’s the most peculiar studio, potential franchise release, I’ve ever seen. I Want to Believe is an adult drama not about David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returning to the FBI to look for monsters–instead, it’s about Anderson’s internal turmoil over trying an experimental, painful procedure on a young patient.

They do return to the FBI to look for (qualified) monsters… but it’s not very important. It’s not even as important as the complicated romance between the characters. Some of the complication comes from the script–Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz take most of the movie to reveal the basic ground situation between Duchovny and Anderson, probably because it works so well and they thought they were going to be rewarding returning fans.

I Want to Believe is far more a postscript–and I make this observation generally, discussing the idea of making a sequel after a reasonable absence (I didn’t watch the last few seasons of the show, only hearing about plot points from friends)–than an attempt at starting a film series. It’s very different and it’s rather wonderful in how delicately it treats Duchovny and Anderson. Carter’s never directed a feature before (he uses Panavision to great effect); he treats Anderson with a moving gentleness. When Duchovny’s on screen alone, it’s almost a jolt–like he shouldn’t be running the show.

As for the mystery, I’m guessing it occupies half of the film’s running time. It’s clearly unimportant–the final act, featuring the resolution to it, is much less important than the denouement. It does allow for a surprise cameo, which ends in another touching, odd manner.

There are some excellent action-like sequences in the film. There’s a great chase scene and Bill Roe’s cinematography gives the Panavision a lush, grandiose scale. Shots of people walking from cars in the snow have rarely looked so good.

The acting’s all good, with Anderson having the hardest job. Duchovny has it easier, while Billy Connolly sort of phones in his performance, sort of doesn’t. It’s the same performance he gives a lot, but given his character (a psychic, sex offender ex-priest), it comes off differently. Amanda Peet manages to make an impression in her smallish role–though most of the movie trailer moments are hers–while Xzibit does not.

I spent the entire film incredibly impressed with the score and it turns out it’s Mark Snow, who did the music for the series. For some reason, I figured it’d be someone more famous.

What’s particularly nice about the film is how little one has to know about the show to understand it. There are some references, but as long as the viewer has a working knowledge of the basic concept… it works. I think. And stay through the credits.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Carter; screenplay by Frank Spotnitz and Carter, based on the television series created by Carter; director of photography, Bill Roe; edited by Richard A. Harris; music by Mark Snow; production designer, Mark S. Freeborn; produced by Carter and Spotnitz; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring David Duchovny (Fox Mulder), Gillian Anderson (Dr. Dana Scully), Amanda Peet (ASAC Dakota Whitney), Billy Connolly (Father Joseph Crissman), Xzibit (Agent Mosley Drummy), Callum Keith Rennie (Dacyshyn) and Adam Godley (Father Ybarra).


Butterfly on a Wheel (2007, Mike Barker)

Besides opening with that long, awkward and confusing title, Butterfly on a Wheel opens a lot like a 1980s thriller would. Robert Duncan’s score is quite effective throughout the film, but during the opening titles–knowing very little about the movie–I think I got a little more hopeful than I should have. Butterfly takes place over a long night (except the first act, which summarizes the day before) and running the present action limits the movie’s potential. With a couple exceptions, the movie doesn’t do anything wrong, it just doesn’t set its ambitions high. As a ninety minute diversion, it’s pretty good, but only because it’s got a couple nice surprises at the end. I’m not a fan of trick endings… but for a ninety minute, second and third acts over one night narrative, I could care less.

Except it’s Pierce Brosnan in the heavy role. Brosnan doesn’t have to quell his accent–though I have no idea, having never seen him interviewed, if he still has a strong Irish accent–but since his character’s deceiving the other characters and the viewer, it’s not like there’s much potential for acting. Brosnan’s good when he does get to act, but it’s only a couple times. It’s a waste of time for Brosnan, the kind of silly role one would take in a vanity project… oh, did I forget to mention he produced Butterfly too? His participation makes a lot of sense with that detail taken into account.

Maria Bello is good, even though the specifics for her character are real sketchy. The first act, the brief establishing of her backstory and the ground situation… it’s too abridged. But she does have some really excellent small moments. They don’t really contribute to the movie, just showcase Bello’s acting.

As for Gerard Butler–and it’s the first time I’ve ever see him in anything–he’s awful. His performance, if it deserves that term, is a disaster. He can’t emote, he can’t sit still. He can’t even walk convincingly. He does bring Butterfly down. Due to his performance, the end is less significant. He’s terrible. There aren’t words for how terrible.

The direction’s competent, bordering on good. It’s a thriller without many set pieces, which is odd, so Barker doesn’t have much chance for flash. There is one terrible scene–the camera is spinning around Bello and Butler, but instead of doing it practical, it’s an effects shot. Except the backgrounds keep changing and it all looks bad. And the effects shots at the end are bad too. But the direction’s inoffensive.

Butterfly‘s engaging in the worst way–it’s actually all about watching to find out what happens. There’d be nothing to see on a second viewing. But for one of those movies, it’s not bad.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Mike Barker; written by William Morrissey; director of photography, Ashley Rowe; edited by Guy Bensley; music by Robert Duncan; production designer, Rob Gray; produced by Pierce Brosnan, Morrissey and William Vince; released by Lionsgate Films.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (Tom Ryan), Maria Bello (Abby Randall), Gerard Butler (Neil Randall), Emma Karwandy (Sophie Randall), Claudette Mink (Judy Ryan), Desiree Zurowski (Helen Schriver), Nicholas Lea (Jerry Crane), Peter Keleghan (Karl Granger), Samantha Ferris (Diane), Malcolm Stewart (Dave Carver), Callum Keith Rennie (Det. McGill) and Dustin Milligan (Matt Ryan).


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