Thursday, June 10, 2010

#28-Surveillance (2008)


Surveillance is the second film from Jennifer Lynch. Daughter of David Lynch, her career was thought to be short-lived after her debut feature Boxing Helena was received extremely negatively by both from both movie-goers and critics alike. Now, fifteen years later she tries again to break into the business her father is constantly revolutionizing, and she does so with mixed results.

If her career speaks for Jennifer Lynch thoroughly, she is never going to be as talented as her father is. This is something that needs to be stated, and known. If you go in thinking that Jennifer Lynch is going to be there for us when David passes on, I’m afraid you’re going to be wrong. Boxing Helena was obviously a film with a number of flaws, all of them nearly unforgivable. Surveillance however brings her work up a notch, and almost lets you forget about her previous film, but that however is not something very hard to do.

For all it’s worth, Surveillance certainly doesn’t have as unique of a story as Boxing Helena, but that doesn’t really matter when the other film just ended up terrible. Surveillance is about two F.B.I. agents investigating a series of murders, and a missing woman. While at the town where these vicious acts have taken place, they interrogate three people: a cocaine addicted woman, a corrupt police officer, and a little girl whose family was killed by the murderer. All three of the stories are told slightly differently through the eyes of these people, and ultimately interlock.

The film wants to, and sometimes tries, to be about the different reactions of different people when they know they are being watched by authority or peers. While it desperately wants to be deep and tell us a little something about the human psyche, and ends up falling short, and reverting to a murder-mystery tale that has a trick that we’ve seen before (different people, different stories, overall story develops through different additions ), and even has some slasher film influences, with the killers wearing creepy masks, and lots of blood making it’s way onto the screen.

"Is that your statement?"

The story is interesting enough, but it has been done before. A lot before. This idea of telling the story over and over again through different perspectives has almost begun to be normal, and the classic murder-mystery style of having one person solve it the lesser used. The mental aspect they wanted to add doesn’t work, and the twist ending easy to see coming. There is nothing specifically good with the story, but nothing specifically bad about it either.

The two main parts in the film are played by Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman, playing the F.B.I agents, and they do decently, again something that I could go either way on, there was nothing that made their roles jump out, or hold back, but I do have to admit, Bill Pullman is always kind of creepy, so it did somewhat add to the performance. Ryan Simpkins places the young girl Stephanie, and does a fantastic job for her age and part, she is easily one of the best child actors I’ve seen in awhile, and can’t wait to see more from her, in fact she is the first child to win a Best Actress award at the New York City Horror Film Festival. The film also has some other not to shabby performances from Kent Harper and Pell James.
Jennifer Lynch’s direction in this film is actually rather nice. She keeps the film raw and unshakeable. Never do we see anyone in the background, keeping us with a feeling of desperation a solitude, as if we couldn’t escape. A good deal of the film is set in the middle of the desert, which only enhances that effect. The office building in which the police work is desolate and empty, which though unexplained is still creepy as well. The film rapidly switches through color tonality, which gives us different feelings based on which character we’re watching and that helps the film quite a bit.

Jennifer Lynch has certainly beaten her previous offering with Surveillance, but like I said, it just doesn’t matter because almost anything could be her previous offering. She showed that she does have some skill behind the camera and can create a certain amount of emotion, but were she lacks is in directing people. The plot is ordinary, overused, and has been outdone, but is never boring, if she does another film, I will go ahead and give it a shot, but won’t necessarily look forward to it. Surveillance is a film that won’t kill you to see, but you shouldn’t kill to see it. It rests right in the middle, and is worth a rental if you were looking for it.

I Give Surveillance A:

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