Director: Andrew Davis
Writers: Frederick Knott (play), Patrick Smith Kelly (screenplay)
Stars: Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen
Crime without punishment.
Millionaire industrialist Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas) is a man who has everything but what he craves most: the love and fidelity of his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow). A hugely successful player in the New York financial world, he considers her to be his most treasured acquisition. But she needs more than simply the role of dazzling accessory. Brilliant in her own right, she works at the U.N. and is involved with a struggling artist (Viggo Mortensen) who fulfills her emotional needs. When her husband discovers her indiscretion, he sets out to commit the perfect murder and inherit her considerable trust fund in the bargain.
The movie is a remake of Hitchcock's “Dial M for murder”. I never saw the original version, so maybe the fact I like the new one a lot has something to do with it. The movie is not very original – it features the most common triangle in the history of the cinema - cheating wife, older, wealthy husband, artist with criminal past. But the characters are extremely well developed and the movie has elegant, classy ambiance and great tension which is the key to making a good thriller.
We should probably sympathize with Emily, the wife, but we just can't. I don't know whether it is because she is cheating on her husband or because she is played by Gwyneth Paltrow – who is very cold, detached and aloof in the movie (sometimes I got Mia Farrow vibe from her). Emily is clever, but in the ending of the film you'll see she's not really a victim. It's a damn shame that director didn't use the alternate ending which was a lot better and where Emily's actions are crystal clear. The theatrical version requires you to think about the title and how well it fits with the final scenes of the movie.
The viewer can't really like the artist either – even if he has the noble face of Aragorn. His actions are just too strange, and he seems to be nothing but a coward. Thankfully, Mortensen is a great actor so at least the character wasn't boring as another passionate artists who are distractions for married ladies (I'm referring to bland Olivier Martinez in “Unfaithful”). Mortensen gives his character a lot of depth, his motives aren't clear but he seems to be torn – between escaping an obvious mess and staying with the woman he loves.
So helpless viewer shifts the sympathy towards the husband. And it's not hard to root for Douglas's character, precisely because he is played by Douglas. He's an amazing actor with a very captivating on-screen persona – everyone remembers his amazing work in “Wall Street” and “Falling Down”. Here he is a lot like Gordon Gekko – brilliant, clever, calculating. Stephen is obviously immoral and ruthless, but he is also interesting and his brilliance is fascinating – the way he plans the whole thing is flawless. It's a thrill to see Douglas on screen, he crashes Paltrow's and Mortensen's performances, although the two of them is doing a good job.
The movie is very stylish – big residence, artist's loft, galleries, modern offices. Settings that are necessary for each thriller about adultery and murder. James Newton Howard's music sets up a pace for the film and brings in few eerie moments. Certain scenes, especially the key scene of the movie are extremely well done and won't fade away from your memory..And the script is very good – there are no plot holes, everything we see in the movie, every single scene is necessary, every line of dialogue has a purpose. The narration is clever – we see the actions of all three key players, we know what they know, we know what they want to do, but the movie still manages to surprise us.
With all of this “Perfect Murder” is a very decent thriller, it's not too predictable – when you are watching it you kept waiting what's gonna happen, but when the movie is over you'll not be surprised the events unfolded the way they did, because you saw it already, in dozens different movies. But the film is worth watching because it's not easy to find a good thriller anymore, so even if the film is not bringing anything new to the genre, we should still praise it for sustaining the suspense and keeping the audience interested