Writer/Director: Pascal Laugier
Horror movies are pretty important in the world of cinema. They can be canon fodder for half-interested gore hounds, or poignant metaphors created by budding talents. Steven Speilberg, Sam Eami, Ridley Scott, Gumellio Del Toro, James Cameron, Oliver Stone, Peter Jackson, and Francis Ford Coppola all made horror movies early on in their ridiculous careers. Since the concepts are pretty intense, there is a substantial amount of room for the creative team to fulfill their potential.
You would assume I would tie-in “The Tall Man” with a prologue like that, but “The Tall Man” isn’t really a horror movie.
“The Tall Man” is a gloomy thriller about child abductions in a small mining town in Washington. It stars the still attractive, even with their best efforts to make her less so, Jessica Biel, and is directed by Pascal Laugier. For years this town has been plagued by abductions, and the mythical “tall man” is to blame.
Julie Dunning (Biel) was once the town’s nurse, but the death of her husband/doctor has demoted/promoted her to widow/doctor. One day after work, she discovers her nanny tied up and unconscious in her kitchen. Her child was kidnapped by a tall figure in a black hood and is driving away in a box truck. A chase ensues and Julia is thrust into an abyss of sorrow and revelation.
This all happens in about the first thirty minutes, then the rest of the movie is not at all what was advertised. In fact, any semblance of horror is tossed aside about halfway through the movie. I’m not sure if I would call the trailer misleading, in part to credit the filmmakers with trying to make a more surprising movie. But then again, they may have just wanted to capitalize on the much more lucrative horror market.
Here’s a sentence I didn’t think I was going to write: “The Tall Man” is the most visually stunning movie of the year (in my opinion). Better than “Avengers?” Yup. What about “The Dark Knight Rises?” Yes. “Step Up: Revolution?” Haven’t seen it, but yes. The atmosphere that Pascal Laugier, Kamal Derkaoui (Cinematographer), Jean-Andre Carriere (Production Designer), and Sebastien Prangere (Editor) have created is so remarkably lush that I made verbal, awkward noises while watching it. Every shot and camera movement has a purpose beyond recording the action and is just as much a story-telling device as the actors and locations themselves. I was totally blindsided by this film’s production quality and I hope it gets a fraction of the attention it deserves.
The same can be said about the performances. This is the best Jessica Biel has ever been, Stephen mcHattie and Jodelle Ferland are great in their supporting roles, and it’s always nice to see William B. Davis.
The concept of “The Tall Man” seems convoluted, but it reveals information in a slow burn. Originally, I thought that was unintentional, but it turns out the movie holds its cards close to its chest until the time it right. This could be frustrating at first, but it’s worth it to not mentally check out… and here’s why:
What, because Jessica Biel is “The Tall Man?” Whoopty-dickery-dock, saw that one coming. Nice try. Maybe if 280,802 other movies didn’t do that, I would have been surprised. But whoa, pump the breaks inner-reader monologue. Julia is ”The Tall Man,” but she’s not exactly crazy or evil. She may actually be the morally ambiguous heroine. She works for a special group that kidnaps abused and neglected children and gives them homes with loving parents. Most of the movie is Julia lying about actually killing the children, just so the authorities wouldn’t look for them. She claims that the bureaucracy in child services takes too long, and before anything is accomplished, the damage is done.
Pretty deep, right? I bet you didn’t think “The Tall Man” was going to make you question morality, huh? I guess, but I just kind of wanted to see a tall ghost man kidnap children, as advertised – not an hour and a half of preachy parenting debate. Well…ughhhhhhh…ummmm….okay… I can understand why you’re mad.
Random Side Notes and Things I couldn’t find a place for:
- Great score. Good job, Todd Bryanton.
- I would probably give the story a solid 3 stars, but the production quality boosts it to 4.
- The poster makes more sense now that I’ve seen the movie.
- I think if you have Jessica Biel in a movie where she plays an average person, you need a scene of her working out. She’s in ridiculously good shape. The same goes for Daniel Craig in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”