"How did you know that?"
Psychologist and paranormal investigator Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Dr. Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) a physicist travel around debunking supposed paranormal activity from bumps in the night to stage psychics. Dr. Buckley wants to investigate their most challenging person to date, Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a redound psychic who is making a comeback after a thirty year absence from the stage. Dr. Matheson warns Buckley against this though after having come up against him in the 1970s and failing to prove him a fraud. With the help of student Sally Owen (Elisabeth Olsen) Buckley defies Matheson and begins investigating the illusive Silver.
As a radical atheist and sceptic the film’s ideas appealed to me. I was delighted to watch the scientists make fun of and debunk people who claim to see ghosts and be able to read minds. The script treats these people with distain and isn’t afraid to mention how these people can be responsible for giving stupid people false hope and can even cost lives. The cast is also amongst the best of any film this year. With actors such as Signourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Toby Jones, Joely Richardson, the delightful Elizabeth Olsen and my all time favourite actor Robert De Niro, anything less than a great film would be a disappointment. Well, this isn’t a great film but it isn’t terrible either.
The cast are all great. It’s nice to see Sigourney Weaver in a more substantial role for a change and not just popping up at the end of a sci-fi film. She is believable as a psychologist and it’s fun to see her spa with Toby Jones. Her character also has just the tiniest bit of doubt which makes her fallible and this is conveyed well by the actress. Cillian Murphy is also excellent as the physicist but is a bit more mysterious than Weaver. He gets better as his character develops as the film progresses. Elisabeth Olsen gives another good performance but after her break out roles in Martha Marcy May Marlene and Silent House takes a bit of a back seat here. De Niro, who as I said is my all time favourite actor doesn’t embarrass himself for once and while we don’t get De Niro of the 70s or 80s he’s on good form here. The supporting cast of Submarine’s Craig Roberts, Joley Richardson, Toby Jones and English language newcomer Leonardo Sbaraglia help to round out a great cast with good performances.
The plot develops at a good pace and it gets darker and scarier as it goes on. I wasn’t able to get the main twist which was a satisfying if ever so slightly confusing one but De Niro’s twists were ridiculously obvious and pointed to far too much. Anyone can see what is going on, you just have to watch. The camera work is far too busy for my liking. One scene featuring Murphy and Olsen having a conversation in a café used about seven different camera angles and it became a little distracting. After filming Ryan Reynolds in a box for his last feature Buried, director Rodrigo Cortes could have done with making his latest film a bit more confined.
The first hour is definitely better than the second and there was an echo of “oh, well then” as the lights went up in the cinema. The film loses its way slightly in the second half and the somewhat pedestrian script comes to the forefront. While the actors do a good job and while there is plenty to like the ending isn’t brilliant and doesn’t do the opening justice. Even so, it’s nice to watch some great actors delivering good performances and the twists should keep most people guessing.