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The Clearing (2004)
The Clearing
Actors: Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe, Helen Mirren, Alessandro Nivola, Matt Craven
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2004     1hr 35min

Boasting the year?s most critically acclaimed and talented cast, including Robert Redford, Hellen Mirren, and William DaFoe, THE CLEARING is a taut, engrossing thriller about fate, love, and missed opportunities. ?Redford ...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Robert Redford, Willem Dafoe, Helen Mirren, Alessandro Nivola, Matt Craven
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge
Creators: Pieter Jan Brugge, Dara Weintraub, Jawal Nga, Jonah Smith, Palmer West, Justin Haythe
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/09/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 10
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish
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Member Movie Reviews

Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO
Reviewed on 9/4/2019...
Suspenseful story with superb acting, writing, and directing by the best in the business! Robert Redford as a almost timid (to start with) kidnap victim who's wife, played by Helen Mirren, must come up with some 10 million, mostly in diamonds, to be freed. Always brilliant Willem Dafoe is the criminal link between the victim and his kidnappers... or is he more involved?
Teresa R. from STAUNTON, VA
Reviewed on 1/22/2013...
Wonderful suspense movie. Keeps you guessing until the very end!
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Not for newlyweds
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 08/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"THE CLEARING will resonate most, I think, with long-married couples. Newlyweds and those married for less than, say, ten years - perhaps longer - may leave the theater thinking, "What was that all about?" Gum-chewing, adolescent singles needn't bother even buying a ticket.

Successful executive Wayne Haynes (Robert Redford) lives the good life in an elegant mansion in a leafy suburb with his wife of decades, Eileen (Helen Mirren). One morning on the way to work, Wayne is kidnapped by Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe), a former employee, and made to march at gunpoint deep into the woods, ostensibly to be handed over to accomplices waiting in a cabin who've planned the escapade for reasons to be revealed. Eileen is left to expect developments and a ransom note with FBI agent Fuller (Matt Craven).

To be honest, I kept expecting a plot twist that would reach out, knock the popcorn from my hands, and scream "Gotcha!" And, admittedly, I was a little disappointed when that didn't happen, even though there's a mildly clever manipulation of the timelines of the two subplots, i.e. Wayne's forced march and Eileen's worried vigil. However, upon reflection, I realize that THE CLEARING isn't about a kidnapping, but rather the evolution of a marriage and the emotional ties that bind even in one that's gone stale, where the only things left are emotional dissatisfaction, dutiful commitment, and resigned toleration. Indeed, Mack's motive for the crime is left unexplored, but it doesn't have to be; it's simply a means to an end.

This film is overpopulated. Eileen is joined by her adult children, daughter Jill (Melissa Sagemiller) and son Tim (Alessandro Nivola), the latter with his own wife and infant son. The casting director should have stayed solely with the Redford, Mirren, Dafoe, and Craven characters. Except for a poignant and revealing confrontation between Eileen and The Other Woman (Wendy Crewson), the rest of the ensemble only provides unnecessary clutter.

Old pros Redford and Mirren show the audience and the younger generations of thespians what quality acting is all about in an adult drama that has nary a special effect in sight. This is a solid film about mature relationships."
A Psychological Study, Not Action Thriller
Tucker Andersen | Wall Street | 08/04/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This is an intense drama which examines the impact of a kidnapping on the three main participants in the drama; Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford), a driven executive who has become a multimillionaire by selling the business which he founded; his wife Eileen (Helen Mirren), who shares their luxurious estate but who was deeply wounded years ago by an affair which she now learns has not ended, and Arnold Mack (William DaFoe), a menacing yet vulnerable kidnapper who hopes to begin a new chapter in his disappointing life. It is directed with great attention to detail; while there are occasionally scenes of intense action, most are very brief except for the one involving the payment of the eventual ransom demand. The performances of the three co-stars in this film allow them to exhibit their talent for dramatic expression which has made them recognizable to all fans of serious drama; if strong performances and a well crafted film by themselves are sufficient criteria for you to attend a movie, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this film a great deal more than I did. The most interesting technique involved the juxtaposition of the two elements of the storyline. After the opening scene we were alternately shown the interaction between DaFoe and Redford during Redford's forced march to the cabin in THE CLEARING in the woods and his wife and family's reactions as events unfolded. Their helplessness intensified as the kidnapper seemed able to continually avoid all attempts by the FBI to entrap him; meanwhile the conversations between the victim and his abductor were riveting at times. (My rating for these aspects of this movie would be well over four stars.)

However, the story seemed interminable to me. I looked at my watch as we left the theater and was amazed that the running time was only ninety minutes, it had seemed well over two hours. The plot is extremely simple, the characters' interactions and the examinations of the choices which have led to their current situation is not the backdrop to the story, it is the story. This film seems to be a tribute to the minimalist tradition; while spare dialog and a tendency towards understatement often allow a glance or a gesture to more effectively impart meaning and create a mood than the chatter which passes for sensible conversation in many films, the director's approach (and script) left me with many questions and a feeling of incompleteness at several points during the film. And while the conclusion was certainly consistent with the storyline, I found it somewhat abrupt (admittedly the effect was quite profound) and disappointing. Thus, my rating of the plot is a generous two stars and my overall rating of three stars is a compromise between my admiration for the film's technical virtuosity and my lack of enjoyment of the story.

As the reviews to date indicate, this film engenders widely differing reactions among viewers. My wife enjoyed it substantially more than I did, and she would have given it a higher rating than I have. Therefore, I have tried to present the positive and negative aspects in an attempt to provide sufficient perspective allow individuals to decide for themselves whether it is the sort of film which they might enjoy. My final caveat is to pay attention to the disparate timelines in the two alternating narrative sequences. It is a very clever technique whose impact I did not fully appreciate until the conclusion of the movie.

Tucker Andersen
A Good, Simple Story. 61 out of 100
Wisconsin Dad | Wisconsin United States | 08/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Clearing is a story of a couple, Wayne (played by Robert Redford) and Eileen (Helen Mirrem), who are in the golden stages of there marriage when Wayne is kidnapped.

Wayne is a successful business man who has nice adult children, a gorgeous home, a nice car and a mistress. Wayne exits his home one day, only to be kidnapped by Arnold Mack (played by Willem Dafoe). It is here that the story begins.

The Clearing really isn't a kidnapping movie so much as it is a story about Wayne and Eileen. It moves along at a comfortable pace, but is by no means an intense thriller or action motion. This is not a bad thing.

The story is fresh, the acting well above average, and the interaction between the characters is pleasant to watch. Overall, the only flaw in the movie is that we really don't get a taste for Wayne and Eileen's relationship to the depth that is needed. They are rarely on screen together. Thus, there is a tension that is missing, because our hearts aren't sold on their love for one another. This leaves the movie a little flat, but still good.

This is an enjoyable movie, but not one most people will rush out to buy.

I want to address comments made by critics of the film; something I don't normally do but feel the need to here.

Some have criticized the movie for having 2 separate time lines. One reviewer called it artsy-fartsy. The Clearing plays no artsy tricks, nor tries to confuse you in the name of making "cool art." There are two separate time lines. We see Eileen as she finds out about Wayne's kidnapping, and the subsequent interactions she has with her family. Then, whenever we see Wayne and Arnold Mack, we move slightly back in time. The movie gently reveals what happened to Wayne. No tricks. No confusion at all. Very easy to follow, and doesn't come of as a gimmick in the least.

Another critic said there were way too many closeups. I don't recall one. Films like the Brown Bunny are filled with dramatic closeups of facial features, drawing attention to the filmmaker at times. The Clearing has none of that. The camera work is soft, unnoticeable, and the movie was not cluttered with closeups.

Many don't like the Clearing because it isn't an action thriller. It isn't. It is a story of primarily 3 people. It is told well, and there are no plot gimmicks. The acting is superb, and the story comes across as authentic. Those who want a heart pounding thriller will be disappointed.

Another critic said the ending was horrible. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the end. Again, there are no gimmicks and no cliff hangers. The kidnapping is resolved, and there is story closure for all 3 main characters. We know why Wayne was kidnapped, and the outcome of the kidnapping. I enjoyed the ending.

This was a good film that could have been great if Wayne and Eileen would have been sewn deeper into our hearts. It is also a film that don't think resonates well with people who have never made it to the 10 year mark in there marriage.

Total Score (out of 100) = 61

31 (out of 50). Enjoyment. A rating based on my overall enjoyment of the film.
9 (out of 10). Acting. How good was the acting?
9 (out of 10). Immersion. Did the movie suck me into the story?
6 (out of 10). Intangibles. Special effects. Movie pace. Is the movie forgettable, or something you will talk about and remember for weeks? Years?
5 (out of 10). Must see. Is this movie worth seeing/renting?
1 (out of 10). Must buy. Is this movie a must buy/purchase?"