I’m sure most people have seen this one and I’m most definitely not in the minority for liking it. I just think this is one of the best action/suspense films in years. Yes, it’s ALL supposed to be set in Illinois and us Illinoisans know that we do not have any kind of dam like that in this great state. But, ignoring that, this one is just top-notch in most every way. Harrison Ford plays Richard Kimble, a doctor who comes home to find a one-armed man attacking his wife. Kimble fights with the man, but the murderer gets away. Kimble is accused of the murder, when the police don’t buy his “one-armed man” story. After managing to escape from incarceration (one of the best train crashes ever put on film), Kimble makes it his mission to come back to his hometown of Chicago and find the one-armed murderer. It’s sharp, fast, well structured, well acted, has just enough humor, and is riveting when it needs to be and laid back when it needs to be. Basically, just a good film.

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Not being one of Roman Polanski’s biggest fans, I was initially apprehensive about this one. But, I like Harrison Ford and Betty Buckley so I gave it a try. It is a sharp, exciting thriller that really utilizes the feel and atmosphere of Paris. Many thrillers fall short of using location to heighten or complicate the suspense. Polanski really captures the essence of Paris here…from the elegant, tourist side to the dark, seedy underbelly. The plot keeps pretty simple…an American doctor, in Paris for a convention, is convinced his wife has been kidnapped. Yes, it is a little more convoluted than that, but that’s the gist of it. From there, Polanski weaves a thrilling tale of intrigue that will keep you riveted until the finale.

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The film that forced married men to think twice before straying…as well as reviving Michael Douglas’ acting career…is a top-notch thriller. It got a lot of attention when it came out in 1987 because of its graphic violence and (especially) sexuality. Sometimes, when you strip the controversy from a film, what you’re left with is a movie that really was not worth all of the attention. I would say that is not true here…this is a great film that knows how to convey fear to the audience. Never would I say something is Hitchcockian (I believe that NOTHING will ever be worthy of that label since the Master of Suspense was, just that, a Master…the one and only), but I think that IF Hitchcock would have been working in 1987, he might have made a film in this same vein. The vein being a continual threat of menacing terror that keeps growing and growing until it just cannot do anything else other than explode! So, watch this one for the thrills…not for the attention it got when it came out. And, whatever you do, please do not call it Hitchcockian. If necessary…maybe pseudo-Hitchcockian, or semi-Hitchcockian? But, only if necessary!

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This is the one that started it all…we are introduced to John McClane, from the NYPD, for the first time. We like him, though we see he has an edge. And he’s troubled about his estranged relationship with his wife, who accepted a lucrative job in Los Angeles months ago and ended up moving up the corporate ladder quicker than expected. Even without seeing any back story, we know instantly that John is not an “L.A” kind of a guy. So, take this worried, disgruntled man and put him in a skyscraper where he is the only one who is not taken hostage when a gang of slick international terrorists come to rob the joint…to say that his adrenaline kicks in is a vast understatement. All John can think about his that his wife is in danger and he needs to save her. And that means he will go to any lengths, which he does with gusto, humor and incredible vigor. This film became the late 1980-1990s icon of the action film. Films, for years after this one, used the “man trapped someplace alone with baddies” formula. But, none of those imitators came close to the rush of the one and only (and the original) Die Hard.

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Don’t call it “Hitchcockian” but this film is a good, nail-biting thriller. Yes, it’s flawed (which is the main reason it shouldn’t be called “Hitchcockian”) but over-all, I was entertained by this one…mostly because of Clive Owen’s brooding intensity, which he has done in films before but that he perfects here. Owen plays a suburban upper-middle-class husband and father who, by chance, meets a seductive woman on the train one morning. After that first encounter, Owen is tempted enough to seek her out again. And, that leads to more and more, etc. Where this film takes off is once the affair is over…then the action begins. Not the best thriller ever made, but something good to hold your interest on a Saturday night…

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I know I often begin these reviews saying I don’t like something or someone but I took a chance and saw such-and-such movie anyway. Well, here I go again. I do not like Nicole Kidman, but I took a chance and watched this one after I’d heard quite a few positive things. And, I was pleasantly surprised. I always like Sam Neill so that part wasn’t much of a stretch, but I usually try to give Kidman movies a wide birth. Ignore my rant about that, it is a good thriller…and even if you don’t like Nicole, try it. Why? Well, it would have to be something pretty good to overlook the “Kidman” factor. And, it is. This is a methodical thriller that takes place almost entirely on two boats. Neill and Kidman are husband and wife who’ve just lost their only child. Neill, a naval officer, takes his wife on a long sailboat trip to try and ease her pain and guilt (the child died while she was driving) of losing her son. While at sea, Neill spots a boat that appears to be in trouble. One of its passengers is heading toward them in a dingy. They take him aboard and he tells the couple that all of the passengers he was sailing with have died. Neill, not believing this story, heads to the other boat…finding out that the people didn’t just die…they were murdered. That’s a big problem, especially since he left his wife on his boat alone…with the murderer! Neill gives an excellent performance and Billy Zane is particularly menacing as the psychotic murderer. And, Kidman is…OK, which is pretty high praise from me. Dead Calm does one of the best jobs ever of giving a realistic feeling of claustrophobia. Even though they are in the middle of the ocean, we continuously feel trapped…which is something that only heightens the suspense. A great thriller!

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A good thriller by Kenneth Branagh…who is not your typical “thriller” director. Maybe that’s what keeps this one original—Branagh’s unusual take on the suspense genre. Well, whatever it is that makes this film witty and clever, it works. Set in two time periods, it tells two stories that at first seem mostly separate but then begin to reveal some joint characteristics. The 1940s part is shot in black and white and revolves around a couple who appeared to be madly in love…at least until one of them is killed and the other is accused of the murder. The present-day story (shot in color) deals with a woman who is suffering from amnesia and the private investigator trying to help her. How these stories interweave is the original part. Branagh does a great job of holding off on the suspense until just the right time. But, once it kicks in, watch out!

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This film is unlike most of the thrillers I have seen…and I have seen a lot of them. It is smart and clever and unexpected. A little bit of horror mixes with some science, some drama and a lot of strange characters to achieve an edge-of-your-seat film. I guess I should take time here to tell you that some of the plot (especially toward the ending) is a little confused…OK, a lot confused. It involves science and genetics and anything to do with science is pretty much Greek to me (or any other language). At first, I thought I was alone in my confusion but I watched some of the special features on the DVD and the cast and crew were talking about how they didn’t even understand it completely. It’s kind of like the Macguffin in Hitchcock’s films…it doesn’t matter WHAT the thing is, it just matters how exciting it is to find it. What kept me most intrigued with the story were the characters and the quick pacing of the action. It is hard to take a breath during this one…things just keep happening. Sometimes, you don’t know why or how they are happening, but by the time you figure it out, something else is happening. Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel play excellently off each other…Reno is brooding and Cassel is inexperienced and impetuous. The way Cassel involves himself with Reno’s case is clever and not the usual “action” movie cliché of “pairing up” the old master with the young guy that has a lot to learn. If you like action thrillers, this is one you will not want to miss!

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Charade is one fun movie. It’s not the best story in the world and sometimes it seems a little trite. But, when Hepburn and Grant appear on-screen together right at the beginning, the chemistry those two actors exude reels you in and just will not let go. This is the only time they appeared together in a film and they seemed to make the most of it. Grant is never more debonair. Hepburn is never more charming. The screen just lights up when they are together. The plot isn’t that bad — it does have a good trick ending and enough twist and turns on the way to make even the most avid film fanatic woozy. Would this film be the classic it is without Grant and Hepburn? No, but it would still be a decent thriller, especially with director Stanley Donen at the helm. With the two stars, though, it becomes something more than just an ordinary movie. It becomes magic.

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Like its predecessor, The Bourne Supremacy, this film holds up well against the first one of the series, The Bourne Identity. When it comes to series films, regardless of how good or bad the first one is, the subsequent films are usually never good…or at least as good…as the first. By a third film in a series, everything just seems to run out of steam…especially the screenplay. Plot is just mostly ignored…since blowing things up for no reason does not fall under the list of acceptable plotlines. In The Bourne Ultimatum, the script stays taut and clever from start to finish, the action stays consistently tied to the story, and the actors do not behave like they are sleepwalking through their performances. Beginning with the plot thread that left Supremacy up in the air, Ultimatum takes charge right from the beginning. Jason Bourne, this time, remembers more about his past and is determined to find out who is the person responsible for that said past. No, it’s not MUCH of a plot but at least it’s some justification for all of the action and fighting. It’s simple…a simple story…Jason Bourne wants to find out who he is and why he does what he does. Basing all the action on that logic, the movie makes sense. And it is one heck of a wild ride – once again Greengrass and his crew incorporate the camera in the action…make sure to take your Dramamine before this one because when Jason Bourne gets in a brawl, you feel like you’re punching right along with him. If you were a fan of the first two films, this one is a must see!

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