Saturday, May 11, 2019

Dead Again

Movie Name: Dead Again
Year of Release: 1991
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi, Andy Garcia, Wayne Knight, Hanna Schygulla, Robin Williams, Raymond Cruz, Christine Ebersole, Campbell Scott, Lois Hall, Richard Easton
Genre: Drama, Mystery
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4 
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Actor/Writer/Director Kenneth Branagh made a splash in 1989 with his version of William Shakespeare's "Henry V", which placed him on a path to become an heir apparent to the career/legacy of the late Laurence Olivier. For his next film he decided to tackle a different type of material, a suspense thriller. The film written by celebrated screenwriter Scott Frank (one of his first features, which he followed with Barry Sonnefeld's "Get Shorty", Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight" and Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report" to name but a few), follows the story of Mike Church, a detective in Los Angeles, specialized in finding missing persons. He gets a case from a local parish, who is trying to help a mute woman who suffers from amnesia, something that is so severe, that she does not even recall her own name. She also keeps having these very vivid nightmares, where she relives with precise detail, the life and death of pianist Margaret Strauss, who was seemingly murdered by her husband Roman, in the 1940s. Fresh out of ideas, Mike decides to use the services of an antiquarian/hypnotist, who starts uncovering more information about this woman, and these nightmares.
"Dead Again" is a film, that much like its director, tries very hard to be many things, but that can never find its own identity. Kenneth Branagh emulates throughout this film many suspense/noir films from the 40s/50s, but the suspense never really builds up, mostly because the situations are poorly resolved and showcased. As much as the focus of the thread of the narrative is the uncovering of Grace's past, and simultaneously uncover the identity of Margaret's killer in the 40s, none of them ever really have a sense of dread, mostly because the characters never feel more than bland sketches. The film needed a stronger point of view from a directorial point of view, and an actor who could embody Mike Church's "loser with a heart of gold" persona with a bit more grittiness and conviction. Emma Thompson and Derek Jacobi are impeccable, and try to sell the material as much as they can, but the overall film simply lacks nuance and style, something that will elevate it above the instantly forgettable note. It's a film with solid production values, but a sadly minor effort from an irregular director.