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(Review originally written at 5 September 2006)

Basically only thing that distinct this movie from other genre movies is its fine cast. "The Clearing" is a pretty formulaic little movie that is lacking in some tension but nevertheless is well enough put together to make this movie a perfectly watchable one.

It's notable Pieter Jan Brugge worked as a producer on most of Michael Mann's most acclaimed movies. His style of directing and storytelling is similar in many ways, although he obviously still has a lot too learn when it comes to storytelling- and directing a movie in particular. Perhaps next time he would also be better of using more of a style on his own, to give the movie its own identity.

The story is for most part non-linear and focuses on basically two plot lines. The kidnapper and his victim (Dafoe and Redford) and the victims family and agents, who try to get him back. It's an interesting approach and for most part it also works well. The movie however isn't made terribly exciting. The movie doesn't really ever gives a 'sense of danger' which makes this movie an interesting but also far from exciting or thrilling one to watch. Also when you're from the Netherlands you probably already know how this movie is going to end, since its based on a true kidnapping which occurred a couple of years ago, only in this movie with different settings and names. No wonder, since director Pieter Jan Brugge is Dutch himself. It doesn't really matter that much all though. I mean after all you also already know how movies like "Titanic", "United 93" and "Pearl Harbor" are going to end but that doesn't matter you wont be able to be grabbed and captivated by it. The ending worked well and was in my opinion the most powerful and effective part of the movie.

It's a shame that the story is most of the time too over-melodramatic. It provides the movie with some needless dramatic sequences which all feel forced and far from realistic. The movie is only 95 minutes short but it feels much longer. The movie also tries to send out a message about marriage values but this sort of gets muddled in by the too many melodramatic moments in the movie. This probably is also one of the reasons as of why this movie is lacking in some good tension and good enough realism to make the story and its style work out a complete 100%.

Normally I'm not the world's biggest Robert Redford fan but he was really great to watch in this movie. He and Willem Dafoe had a great chemistry together and their sequences together formed the highlights of the movie. Helen Mirren is always great in a movie and this movie is no exception to that. The movie further more features established actors such as Matt Craven and Alessandro Nivola. Top-notch cast! Definiatly true that the cast alone forms more than enough reason to watch this movie.

The movie should offer a few surprises and some more than enough other great things to consider this movie a watchable one. Don't set you expectations too high and you'll probably have a good time watching this movie.

6/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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