The Clearing


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Rating: R

Robert Redford as Wayne Hayes
Helen Mirren as Eileen Hayes
Willem Dafoe as Arnold Mack
Alessandro Nivola as Tim Hayes
Matt Craven as Agent Ray Fuller
Melissa Sagemiller as Jill Hayes
Wendy Crewson as Louise Miller
Larry Pine as Tom Finch
Diana Scarwid as Eva Finch
Elizabeth Ruscio as Cindy Mack
Gwen McGee as Agent Kathleen Duggan
Sarah Koskoff as Lane Hayes
Graciela Marin as Graciela
Mike Pniewski as Detective Kyle Woodward
Geoff McKnight as John Dewitt

Special Features:
Commentary by director Peter Jan Brugge, writer Justin Haythe, and editor Kevin Tent

Six deleted scenes with optional commentary

Full-length screenplay

Theatrical trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language Tracks
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 94 Minutes

Here’s the official synopsis for the film:

“Boasting the year’s most critically acclaimed and talented cast, including Robert Redford, Hellen Mirren, and William Dafoe, The Clearing is a taut, engrossing thriller about fate, love, and missed opportunities.

Wayne (Redford) and Eileen (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 (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 reassess 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 safely becomes ever more urgent.”

The Clearing is rated R for brief strong language.

The Movie:
Since this movie starred Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe, and Helen Mirren, I was really expecting it to be good. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The film featured fine performances by all the actors, but the story just wasn’t there. It was slowly paced and I kept expecting there to be some twist or revelation at the end to serve as the payoff. That never happened. You could really just watch the trailer and the last 10 minutes of the movie and get everything it has to offer. Because of this it was a very unsatisfying movie viewing experience for me.

The Clearing is similar to a lot of other kidnapping films, but it focuses more on the characters’ self discovery during the ordeal rather than the drama surrounding it. As Wayne realizes that he’s getting deeper and deeper in trouble, he comes to learn just how much he took his wife and family for granted. Meanwhile, the film focuses heavily on his family as they deal with trying to get him back. Along the way Eileen finds out about the skeletons in her husband’s closet. She becomes torn between resenting her husband and desperately wanting him back. Both performances by Redford and Mirren are excellent.

Willem Dafoe is also interesting as Arnold Mack. He’s a unique bad guy in that he’s a bit boring. He’s just a regular guy in a boring marriage working a dead end job. He’s relatively mild mannered and polite…despite the fact that he’s crazy. It ends up being an understated performance by Dafoe. Amazingly, though, you feel sympathetic for the guy despite his crimes.

Unfortunately, none of these performances can make up for the fact that the story is a bit of a letdown.

The Extras:
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Commentary by director Peter Jan Brugge, writer Justin Haythe, and editor Kevin Tent – This commentary, like the film, is a bit subdued, slowly paced, and methodical. The creators don’t tell funny stories or a lot of trivia like on other commentaries. They mainly stick to discussions about the performances, details on the story, and the making of the film.

Six deleted scenes with optional commentary – The deleted scenes aren’t all that memorable. One shows more of Arnold Mack telling his backstory and giving insight into why he kidnapped Wayne. Another scene shows Eileen making a few more maneuvers to evade the FBI. Another deleted scene is an alternate version of the revelation of Wayne’s fate.

The Bottom Line:
Unless you’re a really big fan of Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, or Willem Dafoe, I wouldn’t recommend The Clearing. Even if you are a big fan you may find the ending of the film a bit anti-climactic.