Plot: What’s it about?
After a jewel heist went sour a decade before, a band of thieves have just regrouped after stays in prison, with intentions to reclaim the lost riches. As part of this plan, they involve prominent child psychologist Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas), though he isn’t informed of why he has been brought into this situation. Conrad is called to assist his former colleague Dr. Louis Sachs (Oliver Platt) late one night, with a very unusual case. A young woman named Elisabeth (Brittany Murphy) has only until Monday to show progress, or else she will be shipped off to a mental institution for the rest of her life. So Conrad agrees and does a quick check with the girl, only to discover she seems to be faking her symptoms, though with an amazing degree of realism. So Conrad returns home afterwards, kisses his young daughter Jessie goodnight, and then heads off to sleep. But when he wakes, he learns that Jessie has been kidnapped and if he wants her back, he’ll have to go back to Elisabeth and extract a piece of information from her mind. But she guards this information with her very life and with only a short number of hours of time to work within, it will be next to impossible to do so. What is so important about this information that these men would kill to access it, and this girl would die to keep it a secret?
In the realm of suspense thrillers, the filmmakers often have to defy reason in order to build tension, even the best thrillers ask us to overlook some small plot holes, after all. But the good thrillers manage to do so and leave us none the wiser, at least until we’ve had time to think things over and analyze the events we’ve seen. So while Don’t Say A Word does take some liberties with realism at times, the movie distracts us from those plot holes and keeps us focused elsewhere, so it all works out as intended. The story is plausible if you stretch things a little, although some touches do make us scratch our heads afterwards. The suspense is tight however, with a lot of great tension packed sequences and dynamic visuals, which ensures the atmosphere keeps our minds within that realm, so the tense fog never lets up. Add in an excellent performance by Brittany Murphy and a very impressive cast, and we’re talking about one heck of a thriller. In a genre overcrowded with mediocre entries, Don’t Say A Word stands head and shoulders above the pack and is recommended to anyone with even a casual interest.
I’ve been a massive fan since I saw her in Clueless, but Brittany Murphy has been improving ever since and in my opinion, she is the most gifted actress of her generation, with very few others even close to her class. In Don’t Say A Word, she takes on a very hard role and knocks it out the park, with an eerie, memorable performance. I love how deeply she inhabits the character and is able to peel back more & more layers as time passes, to reveal the true core of this young woman and her intense troubles. This kind of part is often taken too far, but Murphy is able to use just enough restraint, to keep it all realistic and believable. You can also see Murphy in such films as Freeway, Cherry Falls, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Drive, and Girl Interrupted. The cast also includes Michael Douglas (Basic Instinct, Wall Street), Famke Janssen (X-Men, Goldeneye), Jennifer Esposito (Summer of Sam, Dracula 2000), Sean Bean (Patriot Games, How to Get Ahead in Advertising), and Oliver Platt (Diggstown, Ready to Rumble).
Video: How does it look?
Don’t Say A Word is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As per usual, Fox has issued a day & date transfer that is excellent, but this one just lacks a little something to push it up to the elite level. So no, you won’t notice any massive issues with this transfer, but it has a couple of quirks that keep the score down, even if the score still hits pretty damn high on our scoring charts. I think the main trouble here is some halo effects in some scenes, but even on my 65″ set, these defects never amounted to much of a distraction. I’d like to see them gone of course, but they’re nothing to spend an hour whining about either, if you ask me. The colors look bold and as intended, with some scenes sporting enhanced hues, while flesh tones came off as natural and without any flaws to report. I was unable to find much fault with the black levels either, as detail remains high at all times and shadow depth is on the mark also. This transfer might not be perfect, but it comes close and should satisfy most viewers.
Audio: How does it sound?
Fox has opted to dish out dual 5.1 options in Dolby Digital & DTS here, so both camps should be more than satisfied with this disc. As with a lot of tense, suspense driven pictures, we have a lot of subtle, atmospheric presence, but the audio isn’t just subtle, it likes to kick down the door and go for broke at times. If you’ve got a good subwoofer, the bass will shake your brain in some scenes and that was a surprise to me, as the audio didn’t have nearly this level of power in theaters, at least not where I saw the flick. The surrounds then slowly engulf the audience, drawing them inside the world of the movie and never letting up, making sure we feel like we’re in the middle of it all, which is awesome, no doubt about it. No complaints with dialogue either, as vocals seemed clean and crisp throughout on both tracks. The DTS option holds court with more power and slight refinements, but either of the tracks will more than rock your world, rest assured. This disc also contains a Spanish language option, as well as English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc has been stocked well with bonus materials, including an audio commentary track with director Gary Fleder. I think this is one of the best one man tracks in a long while, as Fleder wastes not one second of the time and delves right into the good stuff, the behind the scenes tidbits we all want to know about. He talks about the methods used to achieve the visuals, his thoughts on the cast, the production design in the picture, and even reveals a lot about how he directs, which is very cool, I think. You can also listen to comments from various cast members on a second track, but these are scene specific and as such, you’ll want to access them in direct fashion using the menu system. You’ll hear comments from Brittany Murphy, Michael Douglas, Oliver Platt, Famke Janssen, and Sean Bean, all of whom have some worthwhile information to unload. A selection of deleted scenes (with optional audio comments) is also found on this disc, as well as some talent files and a brief, promotional behind the scenes featurette. But the fun doesn’t end there, as we’re also treated to two storyboard to scene comparisons, Brittany Murphy’s masterful audition tape, and a collection of additional behind the scenes featurettes. Each of the six featurettes is specific to one topic and on the short side, but if you pile them together, these behind the scenes peeks combine to offer a nice look at how Don’t Say A Word was made.