Saturday, July 26, 2008

The X-Files: I Want To Believe

Finally, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are back together on the big screen. Like with many of the films I've seen, I find the notion of explaining what the movie is about absurd because certain plot points should not be given away and the knowledge that it's an X-Files story should suffice. I've discovered that in a situation like this, there tends to be three types of people: The ones who are already familiar with the characters and the overall themes of the previous stories, the ones with no prior exposure but have had their interest piqued because of things they've read, seen in trailers or they simply *gasp* have an open mind, and, lastly, the ones who merely have no interest at all because of one reason or the other. In this case, if you're an X-Phile, you don't really want to know because you want to experience the story fresh in the theater, and if you're an interested noobie, only a vague, at most, synopsis should be used so, again, the experience of the reveal happens in the theater, and if you're in the "not interested" group, you don't count and should go rent Heaven's Gate. So, the closest that I can come to a synopsis is: Special Agent Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet) is in the middle of an investigation that involves a missing F.B.I. agent, an arm (not the agent's) and a purported psychic priest (Billy Connolly). Unable to make any progress, feeling completely overwhelmed by the grisly and otherworldly elements and convinced there's only a short amount of time to save the missing agent, Whitney, after procuring an "all is forgiven" agreement from the F.B.I., endeavors to find the one person she hopes can utilize the "spooky" aspects of the investigation to possibly save an innocent life, and that person is Fox Mulder. It's been six years since we last saw Mulder and Scully. Scully is now following her medical career and Mulder has been in hiding from the F.B.I. to avoid prosecution for his breech of protocol. (Mulder's infractions are in regards to certain events that transpired during the final seasons of the television series, but those events, other than to establish the fact no one has any information pertaining to his whereabouts and that he's an F.B.I. outcast, have no bearing in this movie.) As the events of the case continue to form a grim and forbidding mosaic and questions of life and death echo with the resonance of a ticking clock, it's time, once again, for Mulder and Scully to gaze long into the abyss.

This one was easy - knowing that the show's creator, Chris Carter, was writing (along with fellow scribe Frank Spotnitz) and directing this feature, I was already anticipating enjoying this film months before it's release, and enjoy it, I did. I know, I know, it's not going to cause money to rain down from the heavens to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars like The Dark Knight, and it's not going to appeal to the ABBA loving crowds of Mama Mia and I'm quite positive that it will hold no interest to those who prefer the intense story telling of Step Brothers, but, regardless of all that, this is a very well done film and very much worth seeing in the theater. However, I fully expect the film's overall success to be much subdued compared to the other offerings of the summer based on the fact that this is probably the most "low key" release of the blockbuster season, but, ironically, the fact that it is so "low key" is one of the most (at least, to me) appealing aspects of the movie. This film has no explosions, only one car chase (and it's in snow - so it's quiet) and no over-the-top "shoot 'em up" moments - there are a couple of gruesome scenes and surprising moments but, for the most part, this is an extremely cerebral story of suspense that gives nothing away, leaving it up to the viewer to follow the clues along with Mulder and Scully and when it's all said and done, there's no insulting summation for those who couldn't keep up. Another great thing about this film, along with the large and obvious central storyline, is the subtle underlying story threads that deal with faith, spirituality, life, death and the emotional light and dark within everyone. So it's fairly safe to say that this movie is not your usual summer popcorn fare but, not surprising to me, I did walk out of the theater feeling pretty warm and satisfied (even with no explosions).

Anderson and Duchovny remarkably pick up where they left off, but six years later - they have the same chemistry, humor and intensity as they did at the peak of The X-Files series, and yet they believably mature the characters to conform with events that are mentioned having transpired during the six year interim. Anderson, as always, honestly portrays Scully as fervently dedicated to her profession and beliefs, leaving Duchovny to display the same convictions while, characteristically, infusing a light lunacy coupled with a sharp wit. Amanda Peet is skillfully adept but emotionally uncertain as Agent Whitney and Billy Connolly is easily the linchpin performance as Father Crissman but, regardless of how good anyone else is, this is still the Mulder and Scully show and without them, this would only be a curiously intriguing movie.

It's possible that since I've recently been re-watching the series, I was more primed than most for a return to the darker world of The X-Files, but I really don't think that's the case and I'm convinced that anyone who appreciates a well told sinister tale that requires more than a modicum of actual thought from the viewer would enjoy this film whether they're a prior X-Files fan or not. After having seen my share of the big summer films (and liking a few of them very much), this was an extremely nice change of pace and, I must admit, the story, the directing and the snowy locations transported and entertained me as much as any CGI creation from any other summer movie this year. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this again upon it's release on disc, which is where, I'm sure, the film will do it's biggest business, and even if there is no third movie that deals with the supposed colonization date of December 2012 (I want to believe there will be), this film has a satisfying closing shot of Mulder and Scully that opens a world of possibilities to the just have to watch the credits or you'll miss it.


Chris said...

The best TV series EVER. And I was an extra in one episode many years ago. Am so looking forward to seeing this film!

John Taylor said...

hi chris - being a fan of the show, you will definitely enjoy this! - you'll have to let me know which episode you were in (i'm jealous) so i can look for you.