The tragedy of 9/11 was a reminder of how someone's life can change in an instant, but an incident needn't be as large to have a devastating effect.
Consider Joe (Daniel Craig), sitting calmly in the park with girlfriend Claire (Samantha Morton), all set to propose. It's a beautiful day, romantic words are at the ready, but just when he's about to speak, he notices a hot air balloon and a man holding onto it, desperately calling for help. Joe and several other men form a rescue team, but fail. The man dies and, horrified, normally calm and collected Joe is stunned.
The image of the accident haunts Joe. He can't concentrate on teaching his university classes and is testy with his friends and devoted Claire. The proposal seems to have left his mind completely. But when one of the men involved in the attempted rescue, Jed (Rhys Ifans), begins to stalk him, begging to explore their "connection," Joe's world really begins to unravel.
So does the film.
Ian McEwan's thought-provoking novel on which this film is based was both a complex thriller and a study of human character. Director Roger Michell tries to achieve both, but fails, particularly at the former. He uses hand-held camera shots that scream, "Someone's watching you" and eerie music that loudly announces, "Something's gonna happen!" in an irritating way. It's like sitting with someone who's already seen the film.
Enduring Love does feature rich performances. Daniel Craig makes an essentially unsympathetic character (the more crazed he becomes, the crueler he is to Claire) worthy of our concern, and there's wonderful comic work by scene stealer Bill Nighy.
But this is Ifans's show all the way. No longer the comic relief, he's utterly transformed as the intensely brooding Jed.
Enduring Love directed by Roger Michell, written by Joe Penhall, based on a novel by Ian McEwan, produced by Kevin Loader, with Daniel Craig, Samantha Morton and Rhys Ifans. A Paramount release. 100 minutes. Opens Friday (November 5). Rating: NNN