Thursday, June 16, 2011

Double Dakota Feature: Trapped (2002) & Nine Lives (2005)

Kevin Bacon stars in Trapped as a man with a plan - the perfect kidnapping. But of course something goes wrong - otherwise there wouldn't be much of a movie. Dakota Fanning plays the scared little girl who gets kidnapped, a couple years before her similar role in Man On Fire. Comparisons between these two titles are inevitable. I liked Man On Fire better; its story had more pathos. And Dakota was more memorable, having more time to develop her character, with less focus on being the terrified victim. But Trapped isn't bad. It's less about the grief that ensues after a kidnapping, and more about the protracted struggle between good guy and bad guy as the plan gradually plays out. In that sense, it's a bit more contrived, but for the sake of crafting an entertaining plot, I presume. It all builds up to an exciting climax that involves more carnage than may be reasonable, but just as much as an audience could hope for.

Nine Lives is a different kind of a film. I would describe it as a reflecting pool, wherein you gaze as you contemplate your struggles in life. It features nine loosely-related stories about nine different women, and the struggles they have to go through. For example, one woman is separated from her daughter while in prison; another woman faces up to her abusive childhood; another deals with her anxiety directly preceding a mastectomy. They are all very human stories, and largely depressing. But that is life, and if there's a lesson to be gleaned, it's not a convenient or patronizing one.

Initially, as the film played out before me, I thought to myself, okay, these stories are going to weave together in some way and head towards a conclusion - but it's not entirely that straightforward. You don't really get a whole lot in the way of closure. But then, it seems to me that the point of this film is not about the specific details of the characters' lives, but rather the overarching themes - the kinds of themes we experience ourselves in life. Sacrifices we make, the importance of family, losses we suffer, the need to overcome grief...

It's not a very happy story, but if you can get into it, it's really well crafted. I read that each of the nine individual chapters was filmed in a single shot; which is entirely believable, because I recall lots of panning in lieu of cutting from one scene to another. It's really remarkable thinking back on each of those scenes, considering the distances covered in some of them. And it gives the film a really unique and compelling style. It's also fun to look for the superficial connections (in addition to the deeper thematic connections) between the segments - characters featured in one segment that might show up elsewhere on the side.

All of the actors put in a good performance. Dakota's role was relatively short, in the final segment, but nevertheless unforgettable. She was a veritable ray of sunshine, even in spite of the cemetery setting. I would have liked the entire length of the movie to have featured her, but well, that wouldn't have suited the story. Ah well. I guess this feeling suits the nature of her role, after all. This really is a beautiful film, though that's coming from someone who thinks suffering (of the psychological variety) is a fascinating thing.

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