Volume 91, Issue 63

Wednesday, January 21, 1998

grape vine


Falling into a predictable plot

©Nicola Goode
HOUSE OF GOD? DENZEL SPEAKING. Denzel Washington and John Goodman chase angels and disappoint audiences in Fallen.

By Dan Yurman

Gazette Staff

You've bought a Lotto 6/49 ticket, you've picked your lucky numbers and are anxiously watching TV, waiting for the numbers to be released. As the last number is revealed on the screen, you look at the ticket in your hand, thinking it is the most beautiful object you've ever held. It's your $5 million ticket. The next morning you call the 6/49 folks to claim your loot – only to find out that it's only worth 20 bucks because everyone else picked the same numbers.

If art is an imitation of life, then Fallen is an imitation of this experience. While the film is wonderfully crafted and spectacular to watch, the payoff is extremely sub-par, leaving the audience feeling cheated, having expected infinitely more.

Fallen stars Denzel Washington as detective John Hobbes, on the track of a murderer – who has already been executed. As the film progresses, it is explained that Reese is not really a killer. The real killer is the soul of a fallen angel, condemned by God to live an everlasting existence as a spirit, floating in and out of bodies and possessing them. Hobbes is the only man who can stop the impending apocalypse, if the fallen angel doesn't drive him to insanity first.

Sensually, Fallen is a fantastic film. It is a real achievement in cinematography and sound; so much so that these elements almost become characters in the film.

Cinematographer Tom Sigel, who cut his teeth working as assistant cinematographer on The Usual Suspects, has really come into his own, employing just the right shots for maximum suspense and horror.

Since the evil spirit is just that – a spirit – some of the film is photographed from his point of view and it is phenomenally done.

Another key sensual element in this film is sound. Sound designer Lance Brown, who brought auditory stimulation to Gotham City in the Batman series, creates a mood terrifically and biblically horrifying. It too becomes a character and remains stuck in the collective brain of the audience long after leaving the theatre.

However, like the infamous lottery ticket, it's the payoff that is horrifying and it comes in the form of the plot. Writer Nicholas Kazan postures absolutely mesmerizing plot lines, involving fallen angels, the apocalypse and belief in God, just to name a few. It is as though he is teasing us, telling us we've hit the jackpot – but the film doesn't show any of it. The film would have been far superior if the filmmakers had expanded on the story, delving into the ramifications of the apocalypse and the will of fallen angels, giving the viewer the big prize.

Instead, issues are raised that have been on the minds of mankind since the beginning of time. They are then simply discarded in favour of a cops-and-robbers story that has been done a million and a half times over.

This lack of vision truly hurts Fallen, turning a possible triumph into a probable bust. Fallen is worth a Tuesday night price, but that's it. If you've got money to spend, buy a lotto ticket. The chances of a winning experience are much more likely.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998