The Others written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, produced by Fernando Bovaira, José Luis Cuerda and Sunmin Park, with Nicole Kidman, Fionnula Flanagan, Christopher Eccleston, Elaine Cassidy, Alakina Mann and James Bentley. 105 minutes. An Alliance Atlantis release. Opens Friday (August 10). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 65. Rating: N
forget the soap opera. forgetthe fact that Tom Cruise is an executive producer on The Others and that Nicole Kidman plays a character who's left husbandless to care for two small children -- desperate, abandoned and possibly mad. Or worse.Leave all that to the shrinks and the tabloids. Here's a stranger twist: how did a director as talented as Alejandro Amenábar turn in such a dry movie? Who let this thing get so boring?
Amenábar's the director of two intricate Spanish thrillers, Thesis and Open Your Eyes. He's known for plots that twist and spiral as fast as his dolly shots. He's a virtuoso. He even wrote the music for The Others.
If only he'd spent more time on the script. Conceived as an old-fashioned haunted-house movie, The Others is set in a remote Jersey isle mansion in 1945. Kidman plays a pious hysteric waiting for her husband to come home from war and smothering her children with her own terrors.
Dyed blond and dressed in a succession of itchy wool suits, she does an uncanny but charmless impersonation of Grace Kelly. In fact, this whole movie feels like an old Selznick-Hitchcock film.
The chandelier rattles, the fog rolls in, the tendons in Kidman's neck strain tighter, but all to no avail. Even three gloomy new servants, caught in some limbo between Upstairs Downstairs and The Addams Family, fail to frighten. Whose idea was this movie?
Amenábar first caught the attention of Cruise-Kidman after Open Your Eyes. Cruise had Cameron Crowe remake that film as a starring vehicle for him, now called Vanilla Sky and due for release later this year.
To their credit, both Kidman and Cruise have consistently sought out directors who are not only suited to their talents but likely to understand and extend their screen personas -- Cruise with Crowe and P.T. Anderson, Kidman with Gus Van Sant and Jane Campion. Both with Stanley Kubrick.
But something sucked the life out of Amenábar's style here. This movie feels like a tour of rooms and landscapes. If Amenábar's name weren't on the film, you'd think the location manager had made it.