The Clearing

The Clearing
Cast: Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Alessandro Nivola, Matt Craven, Melissa Sagemiller, Wendy Crewson, Larry Pine and Diana Scarwid
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge
Genre: Thriller/Drama
Rated: M low level violence, low level coarse language
Running Time: 91 Minutes

Wayne (Robert Redford) and Eileen (Helen Mirren) Hayes live the American Dream. Together they've raised two children and struggled to build a successful business from the ground up. But there have been sacrifices along the way. When Wayne is kidnapped by an ordinary man, Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe), and held for ransom in a remote forest, the couple's world is turned inside out. Eileen finds her home full of FBI Agents, their life under scrutiny.

While Wayne is engaged in the negotiation of his lifetime, Eileen works frantically with the FBI to secure his release. The terrifying ordeal causes Wayne and Eileen to re-assess their marriage and come to a deeper sense of their commitment to each other. With each passing hour, the need and desire for Wayne to return home becomes more urgent.

My Verdict:
'The Clearing' is not your average thriller. The kidnapping of Wayne Hayes by Arnold Mack is average, but it is what happens after the kidnapping where average turns to the unusual. Arnold is a disgruntled former employee of Wayne, and is driven to kidnapping Wayne out of personal desperation from the fact that he cannot come to terms with how his life has evolved after his dismissal. Wayne, of course, is totally oblivious to who Arnold even is, and after an affair, has remained with his wife to whom he remains loyal. Arnold takes Wayne to a forest where they are to trek to a cabin, awaiting further instructions. Meanwhile, Wayne's wife Eileen, is nervously waiting to hear from the kidnappers at their home, along with members of the FBI and their two children.

As Arnold and Wayne hike through the forest there is limited verbal dialogue between them. As time passes, Wayne tests Arnold by starting to question his motives. Arnold is cool and handles himself but the more Wayne pressures Arnold with questions, the more he begins to fall apart. Eventually, a clearer picture emerges for Wayne and he uses these holes to delve into the psyche of Arnold, who is mentally coming apart. The forest is where the bulk of the film takes place, with Wayne and Arnold interacting and it has some special qualities perfect for this genre. It is often cold, dark, rambling, and unforgiving, some of the qualities beginning to emerge in kidnapper and the kidnapped. Meanwhile, Eileen is forced to face a few demons of her own, as she tries to save Wayne and their marriage.

'The Clearing' is a very slow thriller that takes a while to establish its rules. It is not a movie for those wanting action aplenty with their suspense as it relies more on the dynamics of the relationships between the three leading roles. However, it is often intense with an expectancy that comes with a thriller. Perhaps it is a movie for those looking for an alternative to a suspenseful movie.

Rating : B-

Christina Bruce