`Mothman' flies high with suspense
By BRIAN BIRCHER
Scene Movie Critic
Supernatural thrillers have seen a resurgence in popularity since the success of M. Night Shyamalan's 1999 sleeper hit "The Sixth Sense." The latest entry to attempt success in this tricky genre is director Mark Pellington's "The Mothman Prophecies."
John Klein (Richard Gere) seems to have it all: a job as a prominent reporter at the Washington Post and a beautiful wife, Mary (Debra Messing, TV's "Will and Grace"). Things take a turn for the worse when he and Mary are in a car accident that she attributes to something she saw flying at the windshield. But John didn't see it at all.
Two years later, Klein finds himself involved in a series of mysterious events occurring in the small town of Point Pleasant, W.Va. There have been numerous sightings of an enigmatic creature as well as other strange unexplained occurrences.
John takes a personal interest in the mystery when one of the witness' sketches of the creature turns out to be almost identical to one that his wife drew after the night of the accident. From this point on he becomes increasingly obsessed with tracking down this "mothman" and attempting to figure out its purpose. With the help of a local police officer (Laura Linney, "You Can Count On Me"), John begins to delve deeper into the mystery.
To reveal any more of the plot would simply spoil the experience of seeing the film. Pellington ("Arlington Road") does an excellent job of creating a tense atmosphere without resorting to clichéd techniques. The audience gets no more than a glimpse of the mothman; instead, suspense is created out of the fear of the unknown and the mysteriousness of the situation. Pellington uses the camera to add to this atmosphere, making even ordinary items look menacing. The movie manages to maintain an air of tension without getting repetitive. As more action unfolds the audience finds itself all the more intrigued as to its deeper meaning.
Richard Gere turns in one of his better performances in recent years, accurately portraying John as a man struggling to come to grips with the reality of the situation in which he finds himself. He also avoids the pitfall of overplaying his character's obsession with discovering the truth and instead makes it appear to be a very natural evolution from curiosity to fixation.
Linney provides a capable performance as the police sergeant aiding John. The two actors play well off each other and their interplay is never forced into a romantic subplot. Alan Bates is also believable in his role as Alexander Leek, an expert on the mothman who reluctantly lends John assistance.
For audiences expecting or hoping to find some explanation for the title's subject, they will undoubtedly be disappointed. The movie offers little in the way of resolution but instead centers on one man's attempt to understand something for which there is no explanation. This works to the movie's benefit however, as any attempted explanation would have been unsatisfactory.
Instead, the audience gets an entertaining and at times frightening look at what happens as one man struggles to come to terms with life's limitations. For those disappointed that there are no solid answers, perhaps Bates' character says it best when he tells John that "we aren't allowed to know." And that works just fine. -- Three and a half shamrocks (out of five)
Contact Brian Bircher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Scene Stories for Thursday, January 31, 2002