Plot: What’s it about?
From the Author of Gone Girl, Dark Places might draw immediate comparisons for its somewhat similar plot. It might seem unfair to judge one film for not being as good as another, but Places is a considerably inferior film to Gone Girl in almost every way. Charlize Theron plays Libby Day. She is the sole survivor of a murder that, unfortunately, claimed the lives of her mother and sisters. We begin seeing brief glimpses of the murder told via flashbacks in Black & White. Libby believes the work to be that of a satanic cult, and testifies against her own brother. This leaves him imprisoned for a crime he may or may not have committed. Libby has received money from being in the spotlight. She basically got paid to simply do nothing. The money has dried up since a wave of other recent crimes has diminished her returns. A man named Lyle (Nicholas Hoult) contacts Libby about a “Kill Club” in which a group of people gather together to try to solve old cases. Lyle is in a hurry to have Libby assist because a local department will be disposing of old files for several unsolved cases. Naturally, Libby is skeptical at first, but the ultimately agrees to help solve the case.
All of the pieces seem to be in place, but something about Dark Places just doesn’t work. A big problem for me was the way the story kept jerking around with the time-frame. I don’t mind the occasional flashback, but the film doesn’t progress in a natural or satisfying way. I’m usually a fan of Charlize Theron, but she’s very stiff and one-note here. I understand she’s playing a bitter character with a rough past, but she shows no range here. There are also far too many side characters here that aren’t essential to the plot. The small town Kansas setting adds a bit to the film, but I had a hard time caring about the outcome. Instead of being intrigued by the central mystery, I was more eager to it to be over. There are plot elements that I’ve intentionally left out as to avoid spoilers, but Places is somewhere best avoided. You’re much better off watching Gone Girl.
Video: How’s it look?
Along the same lines as Gone Girl, this is a movie (as the title might suggest) that’s dark in nature and tone. Granted, there’s not a lot to be all bright and cheery about, so the 2.40:1 AVC HD image looks positively splendid throughout. Contrast and black levels are rock solid, what little color there is I found to be accurately represented and try as I might, I really couldn’t find a thing wrong with this transfer.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Likewise, the DTS HD Master Audio mix is subtle, yet effective. Vocals are rich and crisp, yet have a very understated quality. Surrounds chime in occasionally, but it’s a very muted and well-balanced mix. All in all it’s a nice soundtrack that’s not too “out there” with the sounds, but rather a much more subdued tone that perfectly fits the film.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Bringing Dark Places to Light – A bit longer and more in-depth than you standard “Making of…” featurette, this does have the usual interviews with the cast and crew, the author (Gillian Flynn) as well as some behind the scenes footage. As I mentioned, there’s a bit more substance to this one than the others and the spoiler warning is a nice touch.
- About the Author: Gillian Flynn & Dark Places – A deeper look and talk with Gillian Flynn who seems pretty down to earth as the author discusses the book, it’s likeness to other works and the shoot of the film.
The Bottom Line
It probably should have worked better, but Dark Places is a lousy film. The direction is all over the place and the pacing is sluggish. This in addition to a fairly weak performance from Charlize Theron only add to the disappointment. Skip it.