AUGUST 15, 2008
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)
I like how Kiefer Sutherland’s career has worked out. By 2001, his movies were going direct to video, and so he took a TV job as Jack Bauer on 24. And that show was so popular that he was able to return to wide release starring roles in movies like Mirrors, which puts his name above the title and everything. Unfortunately, it’s movies like this that led to his box office clout eroding in the first place. Circle of life...
It’s not a terrible movie by any stretch, but the fact that it’s merely underwhelming and dull is somehow more disappointing. At least with terrible garbage (like what Kiefer’s half brother is starring in) you can have fun mocking it and such. But this movie takes itself too seriously to allow the audience to have any fun, intended or not. Every now and then we are given a taste of insanity (mostly in the film’s final 15-20 minutes, which includes Kiefer holding a gun on a nun, an old woman exploding, and a wonderfully downbeat ending), but for the most part it’s surprisingly dull, which is something you can’t often say about Alexandre Aja.
Maybe it’s some sort of meta-“mirror”-commentary, but this movie is the opposite of his previous two films. Those started out strong and ended weak, due to a badly implemented twist (High Tension) or completely misguided “social commentary” (Hills Have Eyes remake). In Mirrors, we are almost numbed into boredom by the time the movie finally gets going. After a major character is killed (well, major in that she’s famous, but she only has about 7 minutes of screentime), Kiefer pretty much turns into Jack Bauer, shooting stuff for no reason, flipping bitches on the expressway, yelling “Dammit!” every 5 minutes, etc. And again: NUNS AT GUNPOINT.
But until you get there, you gotta watch a lot of half-baked family drama (Kiefer is, naturally, burnt out, and estranged from his family), two lengthy sequences of Kiefer walking around the burned down department store where he works, looking at mirrors and “seeing things”, lots and lots of shots that keep the whole duality/mirror image thing going (just about every shot in the film has some sort of reflective surface), etc. And maybe it is yet another sort of “mirror” type motif, but it seems we get two versions of every scene in the film. Besides the two “store walkthroughs”, there are two scenes of Kiefer going through medical documents and such, two scenes of him driving to talk to some “answers” person in the middle of nowhere, two scenes where his sister tries to give him advice and he brushes it off, etc.
Plus, it’s simply far too serious than any movie about killer mirrors should be. Given how nonsensical the plot is, I really wish some of the actors and Aja (who wrote the script, as usual, with Grégory Levasseur) just had some fun with it, instead of being so dour and upset all the time.
The movie is also strangely lacking in other characters to put in danger. Kiefer’s job is to watch a condemned department building (it suffered a major fire), but he never actually has to do anything. Why not throw in a homeless person or maybe a looter for the mirrors to kill? Kiefer also has a buddy on the force who helps him unravel the mystery via providing him with medical documents and such, but he is kept entirely out of the action. So basically, Kiefer and his family are the only ones ever in any danger, which is to say that there is no danger. If Kiefer dies it won’t be until the end, and since this is an American film, there’s no way Aja will be allowed to kill off the two young kids (ages 6 and 8) or their mother, as that would mean the kids would be placed in foster care or with their burn-out dad, which is a major bummer either way. In the end, more CTU agents are killed in a single episode of 24 than are killed in the entirety of this 2 hour, R rated movie. Not that a body count is essential to an effective horror movie, but if you can’t really believe any of your characters are in any danger, you lose a lot of the potential for suspense, something more problematic when your movie is about a half an hour too long as it is.
On Jim Steinman’s album "Pandora’s Box", there is a spoken word bit about how the main character in the song has to feed people to the hungry mirrors. They show him a reflection and he has to find the person in it, and then let the mirror eat them (this was also sort of the plot for one of the stories in From Beyond The Grave). That song not only has a way more interesting story, but it’s also much creepier than anything in this movie. The first time you see a reflection start to “stray” from its owner, it’s a cool effect; by the 10th time, you just want to get on with it.
I really wanted to like this movie, and there’s definitely a good version of it in there somewhere (it’s partially based on a Korean film; maybe that one delivers). Like M Night Shyamalan, I think Aja is a very gifted filmmaker, but should really allow someone else to write the scripts. It’s kind of ironic that his least disappointing script (if not a particularly great one) was the one he let someone else direct (Franck Khalfoun for P2); maybe it’s time he tried it the other way.
What say you?