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Don't Say a Word

"I'll never tell..." 

Year: 2001 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

There aren't many Hollywood actors that can make a bad film good simply by their presence in it. Jack Nicholson, Mel Gibson, Freddy Prinze Jr (oooonly kidding) - and Michael Douglas. That's not to say that Don't Say a Word isn't good, but simply that it benefits enormously from having such a charismatic star.

Douglas plays Dr Nathan Conrad, a distinguished child psychologist whose harmonious existence with his wife and daughter is disrupted when he takes on a disturbing new case. Soon after meeting a twitchy, dangerously unstable patient (Brittany Murphy) his young daughter is kidnapped by mean and nasty bad-asses who want Conrad to pull a six digit number out of his patient's "fragile little mind", or his daughter will "get it". High art this is not, and though the bare bones plot is scripting-by-numbers to a certain extent, there is an undeniable enjoyment in watching the twists unfurl.

Douglas is as suave as ever, while Sean Bean brings an air of British menace to the chief bad guy role that is so very rare in Hollywood thrillers. Murphy is surprisingly assured as the troubled teenager, though her speedy transition from dangerously violent patient to cowering victim seems a little forced. Famke Janssen, as Conrad's broken-legged wife grabs herself a little bit of screen time by hobbling about and participating in one of the film's most brutal scenes. Everyone turns in a solid performance, but then there is no reason to expect anything less in such a glossy, high-budget offering.

Gary Fleder, director of the superb Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, shows that he's studied all the key atmospheric thrillers. In terms of ambience, Don't Say a Word is closest in style to Fincher's The Game, dealing in washed out, muted colours and a strong sense of loss of control. Starting off languidly paced, the film gradually picks up until it snowballs into a fairly standard, but exciting, Hollywood action climax.

It's easy to pick out the films that have influenced the style and story of Don't Say a Word - the John Badham thriller Nick of Time with Johnny Depp is particularly close in structure, and yet Don't Say a Word manages to stand on its own as top-notch entertainment. The film offers nothing more than an enjoyable story, well acted and well told, and is all the better for it.

Greg Taylor

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Screenings of this film:

2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)
2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)