Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FI: Frantic

United States, 1988
Directed by Roman Polanski

As hard as Polanski's past actions make it to celebrate his work, I've got to admit that the man knows how to create tension on the screen. Frantic is not at all one of his best efforts, and it's weighed down more than a little bit by its 1980s baggage, but it's still got plenty of taut, well-timed scenes of danger, stress, and revulsion.

Harrison Ford is a doctor visiting Paris with his wife for a medical conference. Then there's a mix-up with her suitcase, and after an unheard phone conversation while Ford is in the shower, his wife vanishes. He spends the rest of the movie trawling Paris's seedy underbelly to find out where his wife went and why she was taken. Along the way he meets Emmanuelle Seigner's Michelle, the smuggler whose suitcase his wife accidentally picked up, and together they try to figure things out in the face of bureaucratic indifference and unclear circumstances.

The film is a good example of the kind of thriller that takes a personal problem (a missing wife) and escalates it into a huge international conspiracy (propelled by Michelle's smuggled MacGuffin). But as adequate as the film is on its own merits, it's ultimately tough to distance it from the many "Harrison Ford fights to safe his family" films that have come out in the intervening years. While this is one of the better examples, the others may have watered down the brand too much for you to look on this one with unbiased eyes.

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