"The Clearing" is a garden-variety kidnap movie.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Robert Redford is a brave actor: He allows multiple close-ups of his weathered 60 something face to play a kidnapped husband and father in director Pieter Jan Brugge's (produced "Insider") "The Clearing." The intimate shots of him and his wife, the estimable Helen Mirren ("Calendar Girls"), almost 60 and less-aged than her outdoorsman leading man, help support the theme about what disruption can do to challenge the love of two people, regardless of their wealth and personal crises.
"The Clearing" is a garden-variety kidnap movie whose distinctions are its splendid photography by Denis Lenoir ("Demonlover") and actorly moments between Redford and his captor, played by Willem Dafoe ("Spiderman 2"). Dafoe plays the standard "outsider" who changes things, much as Sergei Lopez did in the almost-abduction "With a Friend Like Harry," except that "Clearing" lacks the tension of "Harry" and is formulaic and emotionless, reflecting the refined and restrained husband and wife. "Ransom," "Proof of Life," and "Man on Fire" further show how difficult it is to make successful abduction films.
As the "action" moves to the conclusion, an idea about the riches of love saves the film from imitating most made-for-TV movies: "If you love me, I have everything," Redford exclaims. Until the "clearing" of their life down to its essentials, they cannot know what "everything" is.
However it takes a determined kidnapper to clear the decks. The couple fulfills the definition of what Lawrence K. Frank described in maturation as "relinquishing, rejecting of what has been painfully learned in order to establish a new and replacing pattern." It's just that this kidnapper is determined to keep that replacement time short.
"The Clearing" is not worth the ransom of a box office ticket if you are interested in a creative kidnapping film; for the first-rate acting and cinematography, it can be tolerable.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.