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Film Review: What Lies Beneath

The Director of 'Back to the Future' looks to the past for inspiration

What Lies Beneath throbs with the joy of cinema even if Director Robert Zemeckis clearly apes Alfred Hitchcock's style. Yes he could even be accused of shameful robbery, but he pulls it off with such panache, that he creates a film which succeeds in terrifying the audience whilst giving them some food for thought.

Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer in 'What Lies Beneath'Michelle Pfeiffer is, after a long drought, finally given a role which she can play with. Whether it is writhing on top of Harrison Ford's surly scientist in a moment of feline like sexuality, or simply using her eyes to convey the horror of rising water, Pfeiffer proves why so many young actresses point to her career as inspiration. She conveys fragile beauty with a tough, brittle streak which makes her believable in any number of roles. Ford is Ford, i.e., strong and dependable. However, he isn't coasting through the film as he has been for the past 3 or 4 years. He bravely takes on a role which at times makes him unsympathetic, whilst also suggesting darker and deeper levels. Once you have seen the film once, go back and look at his performance once more. It may be his best of the '90s.

Zemeckis, aided by a subtle screenplay by Sarah Kernochan and Clark Gregg (which is an effective evocation of a stale marriage as it is a supreme suspense film) and cinematography (Don Burgess) which evokes the dullness of Pfeiffer's life in the opening scene with its muted colours, before unleashing a breathtaking series of camera movements in the final act, crafts a film which is far superior to the saccharine overload of Forrest Gump. Not only does Zemeckis utilise stars supremely well (notice how their star personas feed into the roles), but he is one of the few directors able to make use of Computer Generated Imagery in the service of a story, without the story being a slave to it.

Overall, 'What Lies Beneath' should be your priority in the coming weeks. It provides a strand of intelligence and genuine fright which leaves Blair Witch 2, the other scare film on current release, in the dust.

Ian O'Sullivan

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