A Film Review By The Mike

Rating: R for Language and lots of Bloody/Gooey Things
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Damian Lewis, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore, Donnie Wahlberg
Directed By: Lawrence Kasdan

Final Grade:

Imagine yourself on a long journey that will end at a place you know well. The closer you get to your destination, the more wrong turns you take. You still end up where you want to go, but the wrong turns near the end of the trip have taken their toll on you, and it definitely hasn’t been worth the effort.

That’s not the story of Dreamcatcher, that’s the result of the movie. Director Lawrence Kasdan takes many chances in making the first horror epic in quite some time, but many of them fall short of the impact they need to carry. It’s disappointing to see the director of such great films as Body Heat and The Big Chill to make a film like this, especially with William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Hearts in Atlantis) collaborating on the script.

Dreamcatcher is an attempt to adapt Stephen King’s novel of the same name, and from what I understand is a pretty faithful one. The story is centered around four friends, linked telepathically since they met a young mentally challenged boy as children, who become unwilling captives when their hunting trip happens to be in an area inhabited by an alien landing. This brings in the army and a special unit led by Col. Kurtz (played by Freeman, not Marlon Brando…That’s an Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness reference for you uneducated folks), who is a few nickels short of a dime.

Sound complicated? It is. Jumps from place to place happen frequently and quickly. One review I saw compared them to the cuts in Star Wars, a strangely psychotic comparison if I’ve ever seen one. I’m not even a Star Wars fan, but I know that this is not a film that should be mentioned in the same sentence as Star Wars.

The cast is excellent, although the abundance of characters is at times overwhelming. Freeman as Kurtz and Tom Sizemore as another officer are good, but there is no depth to the characters they are given and no real reason to wonder about them. They are cardboard caricatures, sent in with a silly side story that affects the plot little. Focusing on the four in the woods would have been a better idea. Freeman gets top billing in the credits, but probably puts in less screen time than any of the five names that come after him.

The four friends, our main characters, are extremely well cast. This is by far the strong point of the film. In the first corner we have Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea), an actor with relatively untapped “Hollywood Leading Man” potential. He’s an intense actor who’s perfect as a hero, and carries off his role as the strongest of the four with ease. Jason Lee and Timothy Olyphant, two wonderful supporting actors, go through the motions in their comedic roles. Usually that’s a bad thing, but they each have a charismatic air that puts them over the brink of goodness. The final member of our foursome, Jonesy, is played by Damian Lewis. I’d never seen or heard of Lewis before this film (A check of his previous filmography tells me I’m not missing much), but he bounds off the screen in a delightful two-faced performance. It’s shocking to watch, especially half way through when you realize he’s actually British. This could be an actor to look out for.

These four make Dreamcatcher at times engrossing, with their moments purely amazing. Add to these scenes some awesome creature effects and an extremely original story, along with the sometimes-brilliant direction and script from Kasdan, and there’s a lot to love about Dreamcatcher. With a half an hour left in the film I was ready to laud this as one of the best Sci-Fi/Horror hybrids in ages, but the final reel drove me to reconsider.

It’s sad when something good falls apart like this, and I really wanted to like this film despite its flaws. I do recommend you check it out, if only for the performances of Jane and Lewis and the great effects, but I can’t tell you you’ll enjoy the film as a whole. Despite the purpose of the dreamcatcher in the film, the “bad ones” slip through into the final product that is this film. It’s an extreme disappointment when they do.

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