Lionsgate // 2006 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 16th, 2009
What price would you pay for freedom?
Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) and Ryan Phillippe (The Way of the Gun) headline this unique thriller about interrogation and sliced off fingers.
Martijn (Phillippe) is a Dutch pianist on his way to Morocco to start a food program for starving kids. It sounds like a pretty worthy effort and he's ready to roll until he's violently accosted on a bus and shot up with a powerful tranquilizer. When he comes to, he's bound to a chair and confronted by Muslim named Ahmat (Fishburne). Ahmat doesn't think Martijn is who he says he is and proceeds to interrogate him. Who is he? What is his purpose for traveling to Morocco? Where did he get all that money for the food program? And where did he learn such an awesome Dutch accent?
I enjoyed Five Fingers and recommend it, with two big caveats:
The pacing might be painful for some. There's a lot of buildup and endless amounts of dialogue, as the characters engage in back-and-forth word play designed to elicit information. This story is all about extracting information and the eventual revelation of the players true nature. The dialogue concentration is so heavy it reminds me of a stage play. Director Laurence Malkin breaks up the verbal sparring with flashbacks and (as the title refers to) the forced amputation of fingers. That last bit, by the way, is not graphically realized with arterial spray and whatnot, but the implied violence is brutal.
You'll realize the big twist ending about a third of the way in. If I could figure it out, you could too. Actually, if I can figure out a twist ending, it's plausible a Golden Retriever could arrive at the realization. I don't think that's really the fault of the film, merely an indictment of what we as viewers have come to expect when watching these kinds of movies. After so many "twist" films, when I know everything is pointing toward a plot turnaround, the trajectory is easy to spot and I begin to run through possible outcomes in my head. This particular finale will likely be the first resolution you will conjure.
What might have been a gamebreaker in a lesser movie isn't here, because the twist is pretty freakin' good. I knew it was coming, but when it hit I was still impressed. Much of that success is due to the stellar performances of the cast, particularly Phillippe, Fishburne, and Gina Torres (Serenity), who plays a Muslim interrogator. These folks are obviously invested in the goings-on (a point they reinforce in the accompanying documentary) and their willingness to sell the writing pays off with the jarring denouement.
That's all I'll say, because in all likelihood I've probably given away too much already.
Five Fingers gets a push, despite the hang-ups. It's well-made, well-acted, and manages to engage, despite its dialogue-heavy, one-setting nature.
The DVD: a clean 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and center-channel heavy 5.1 surround are joined by two extras, Endgame, the aforementioned featurette, and a hilarious trivia track you know was put together by interns who were bored. A couple of samples: "Left-handedness is relatively uncommon" and, my favorite, "A sponge bath is the recommended way to clean a newborn baby, until the umbilical cord falls off."
Worth a look, if you've got the patience.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Trivia Track