Don't look too close

I particularly loathed the promotional spots for this movie when it was in the theaters. The sing-song "I'll never tell" line was grating after so many repetitions. I suppose the theory is these days is that even a bad impression makes good advertising if it raises the awareness of the product.

But trailers do not make a good reflection of a film anyway. How does the film stand on its own?

Don't Say a Word is a fairly tightly plotted Thanksgiving thriller revolving about a psychiatrist and a mental patient who has some information - a six digit number - locked up in her head. There are some bad guys who want that information, and kidnap the psychiatrist's eight year old daughter to get him to unlock that information.

By "Thanksgiving thriller", I mean it takes place on Thanksgiving, which means basically that people get to talk a lot about food and seeing their families, and having to deal once with crossing the route of Macy's parade.

The bad guys are very technically proficient, so much so there's no fallout from killing the occupant of a neighboring apartment, nor implanting a slew of hidden cameras in the psychiatrist's place.

There's a side plot of a cop tracking down the origin of a body found the night before. Eventually, this proves to be related to our main plot. Fancy that.

From moment to moment, things flow well, but the facts of the movie do not stand up to scrutiny. The explanation of the psychiatrist's involvement is weak to begin with, and when it turns out someone else was working the case from that angle, it becomes more ridiculous. The kidnappers turn out to be inconsistent in their treatment of hostages. And most importantly, the raison d'etre of this film, that the bad guys would know this patient could lead them to their lost booty, is never shown.

Individually, these holes aren't that bad, and the movie moves along so fast there's little time for them to register. It's quite possible to enjoy this film anyway.

The acting's pretty decent. I like Brittany Murphy, but her role was thinner than I expected. Michael Douglas plays the psychiatrist - there's a few good moments for him, but the film is so hooked to its path, there's little expressiveness. Oliver Platt shows his versatility in a small role. Sean Bean has some vague personality as the head baddie. Jennifer Esposito plays the detective brash and smart and determined. All in all the performances are adequate, but nothing much to get excited about either.

There's one point at the end where the number ends up being the wrong one. The film goes through a complicated psychological explanation, and benefits from a much-too-conveniently placed piece of glass to reverse the digits. This was hardly necessary. With the circumstances of how the patient learned the number, it could easily have been upside down (rather than reversed), which can fixed using such complicated technnology as a piece of paper that can be turned around. But even before such silly mechanations, these are numbers ought to be a matter of public record - sure, it relates to a "John Doe" (which is not well explained either), but the baddies, with all their skill and inventiveness, ought to have been able to get into a records office - heck, they have a map of numbers to locations - where'd they get that from?

Which really goes to show how transparent the motivations of film can be. It's hard work making everything fit together, even more so for such a tight film. With the millions spent on these things, I often wish they'd spend more time on the script.

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