Slowly and surely, the fading stars of the past are re-emerging and making it a little bit harder to make jokes about their last performances. Last year, Kevin Costner lifted himself a little out of the joke-world with a good performance in the underrated “Thirteen Days.” Recently, Robert Redford proved that he still has the skills that made him a superstar even in a mediocre action film like “Spy Game.” And on television a former lesser star, Kiefer Sutherland, is giving the greatest performance of his career in “24” after everyone else thought that they had seen the last of him.
Now, it is Richard Gere”s turn. Of late, Gere has turned to inferior films due to one of two desires _ money (“Runaway Bride”) or political beliefs (“Red Corner”) _ but it seems that finally, Mr. Gere has found a film he actually cares about, turning in a performance he can be proud of. And the role of John Klein is perfect for him.
Klein, a Washington Post reporter, is happily married to Mary (Debra Messing, “Will and Grace”), until they excitedly drive after a new home purchase and get into an accident that critically injures Mary. John is perplexed as to what Mary refers when she says, “You didn”t see it, did you?”
Two years later, Klein, driving down to Virginia for an interview, inexplicably gets lost and breaks down in the West Virginian town of Point Pleasant. Klein immediately experiences weird events when he knocks on the door of Gordon (Will Patton, “Remember the Titans”) and is surprisingly told he has knocked there the previous two nights as well. Local cop Connie Parker (Laura Linney, “You Can Count on Me”) shows up and then helps Klein get situated in his new surroundings.
Soon, Klein learns of some bizarre sightings that have been occurring in the not so peaceful town, and they bear resemblance to the drawings of Klein”s wife. The figure people report appears to be a combination of moth and man, with two glowing red eyes. Soon, this presence is talking to residents as well, starting with Gordon. He is even predicting world disasters.
Klein, with the help of Connie, is doing his best investigative work to discover what his really happening to the town”s residents, hoping that somehow it will help him figure out what happened to his wife.
“The Mothman Prophecies” is based on a non-fiction book by John Keel, and the film declares at the beginning that it is based on real events. How much of the story actually is real and what is just theory and superstition is hard to estimate. But either way, this film works mostly because of the overly creepy mood created by director Mark Pellington, director of “Arlington Road” but just as famous for directing Pearl Jam”s “Jeremy” video.
Canted close-ups, dark music and interesting transition graphics set the tone for the film, and while most of the action cannot be categorized as scary, there is still an overhanging tension and foreboding over almost every scene.
As the film moves along into its two hour plus running time, it loses a little bit of its freshness and comes close to losing the attention of the viewer. But after this sluggish fraction, the film leaps into its incredibly well executed climax. It is one of the best action sequences of recent memory, terrifying and exhilarating at once.
Gere is once again at his best working with material that makes use of his ability to overreact and erupt, while the camera loves staring into his remarkably black eyes. Laura Linney is equally first-rate, but she is such a fine actress that you wish she was in it even more.
Films dealing with the unexplained have a hard time leaving viewers satisfied at their conclusions, but the joy of a film like “The Mothman Prophecies” is not in finding answers to the supernatural questions that surround us, it is in those strange, mystifying events that initiate the investigations.