Judge Mitchell Hattaway advises you to fuggedaboutit.
What if you were told that every moment you experienced and every memory you held dear never happened?
Great. Another would-be thriller featuring bad dialogue, characters whose actions make no sense, and enough plot holes to fill the Albert Hall. Story of my life.
Be warned: There's no way to discuss The Forgotten without revealing a little bit of the plot. If you're worried about spoilers, you might want to proceed with caution.
Facts of the Case
Fourteen months after a plane crash took the life of her son, Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore, Evolution) is finally starting to come to grips with her loss. Dr. Jack Munce (Gary Sinise, Mission to Mars), Telly's psychiatrist, is pleased with his patient's progress. Jim (Anthony Edwards, Pet Sematary II), Telly's husband, supports her in her decision to return to work. Then something strange happens: The image of Telly's son disappears from a family photo. Telly confronts Jim, accusing him of doctoring the photo, but Jim now claims they never had a son. When Telly informs Dr. Munce of her husband's behavior, the psychiatrist tells her that the son she purports to remember was stillborn, and that her memories are a manifestation of her grief. Telly soon discovers that all traces of her son's existence have been erased.
Screenwriter Gerald DiPego (Sharkey's Machine, Phenomenon) says the original spark for The Forgotten came to him in a dream—a dream in which a mother and father watch their son slowly vanish from a photograph. I'll give him that, but I think the rest of the plot came to him after he made a trip to Blockbuster and rented Dark City and The Matrix. It's obvious DiPego had no idea how to flesh out his idea; his story becomes more unfocused and ludicrous as it goes along. The first half hour of The Forgotten is okay, but things fall apart in the second act, and the last thirty minutes are laughably ridiculous.
Okay, before I start to rip this thing apart, let me sum up some of what happens once Telly realizes everyone thinks she gone nuts. She goes to the library, asks to see some newspapers from the time of Sam's death, and discovers that the articles regarding the crash have been removed. She runs to the home of Ash Correll (Dominic West, Mona Lisa Smile), an alcoholic ex-hockey player whose daughter was also killed in the plane crash. Thing is, Ash says he never had a daughter. Telly tries to convince him otherwise, and is unsuccessful until she discovers…well, we'll get to that in a minute. Unfortunately, before he came to his senses Ash had called the police, and Telly is arrested. Then a couple of agents from the National Security Agency intercept the cops and take Telly into custody. Ash helps her escape, and they go on the lam. They have a couple of run-ins (literally) with A Friendly Man (Linus Roache, The Chronicles of Riddick), a creepy dude with superhuman powers and an uncanny ability to find Telly wherever she may be. Telly and Ash also manage to get some help from Detective Anne Pope (Alfre Woodard, Radio), a New York City cop who suspects something's up when the NSA agents take over the case. Oh, yeah, there are also some weird cloud formations and a couple of people get sucked into the sky.
I think the reason the setup sort of works is due to Moore's performance. She does manage to draw sympathy for Telly's plight during the opening moments, but this sympathy evaporates as soon as all the stupid chase scenes kick in and you start to think about how ridiculous the whole thing really is. Telly and Ash spend the entire second act running from the NSA agents, and this is when I really started shaking my head in disbelief. Are actual NSA agents this dumb and out of shape? How can they not catch a forty-something children's book editor during a foot chase? Don't they know you don't stop people fleeing in a car by crashing into them on the passenger's side? That way you leave the driver's side open. If you want to stop them you hit them head-on. That way the air bags deploy and make it harder for anyone inside the car to get out. You also don't send one man to search ten acres of woods. And you always handcuff someone you've detained before you throw them in the backseat of a car. Man, these guys are so stupid they'd be rejected by the Keystone Cops. Of course, none of Telly and Ash's escapes would be possible were it not for the fact that director Joseph Ruben (Sleeping With the Enemy, Money Train) cheats during the chases. For instance, when Telly escapes from the NSA guys outside Ash's house she runs into a grocery store, closely followed by one of the agents. She runs out the back of the store when a customer knocks down the agent. The next shot shows Telly in the middle of a street, which is followed by a shot of the agent exiting the store. The next shot shows Telly running down of an alley. Exactly where this alley is located, or how Telly managed to find it, isn't shown—there's no establishing shot. Sorry, Joseph, but that's not fair.
Here's where I have to be a little careful. The, um, individuals the NSA guys are in cahoots with are even dumber than their partners. Do you think anyone capable of erasing memories and altering the fabric of space and time would really use wallpaper as a means of covering their tracks? That's right—wallpaper. Remember what I said about Ash suddenly remembering he had a daughter? Well, this happens after Telly tears down some wallpaper in what was once Ash's daughter's room, revealing the paintings the young girl had left on the walls. The whole scheme comes crashing down because the idiot bad guys were dumb enough to just slap up some wallpaper. Good lord. Just think, they might have gotten away with it had they repainted the walls. A coat of primer and a coat of paint and everything would have worked out. (Man, I can't believe I just typed that.) By the way, when exactly did the bad guys come in and redecorate Ash's home? The guy never frigging leaves his house! Did they knock and he let them in? I also don't understand why the villains even need the NSA's help. Think about it: If you can suck people into the sky when you need to get them out of the way, and warp reality on a whim, why would you need guys driving around in Buicks to do your leg work?
It's also never really explained exactly how the villains are carrying out their scheme. How exactly are they erasing everyone's memories? Is it mass hypnosis? Is it on a case-by-case basis? Imagine what such an endeavor would entail. Every newspaper in the country would have picked up the story of the plane crash. It would have been all over CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. The FAA would have started an investigation. Lawsuits would have been filed against the airline. (Okay, so the airline in the film went bankrupt after the crash, but so what?) You'd have to erase the memory of anyone with even the smallest hint of knowledge regarding the accident. That's several million people. You telling me Telly's the only one who remembers anything? And why doesn't Telly phone her parents? Trust me, grandparents don't forget about their grandkids. I don't care what you do to them.
As bad as most of the film is, the ending really blows. Telly has a long, boring confrontation with A Friendly Man, who goes a little Agent Smith on her, and then we're supposed to believe everything can be set aright in the blink of an eye. That's more than a little insulting.
As I mentioned earlier, Julianne Moore is very good in the film, and the majority of the other cast members acquit themselves nicely. My only real complaint is with Linus Roache. It's bad enough his character has been lifted from another (better) film, but that doesn't give him an excuse to actually ape Hugo Weaving. C'mon, man, at least put a little effort into it.
The audio/video presentation is pleasing, although I was just a little disappointed. There's an intentionally cold, grey look to the film, and this is well represented, but a handful of scenes are marred by excessive grain, and the opening sequence is riddled with motion artifacts. The audio mix is, for the most part, rather subdued, but things really boom, and I do mean boom, during the car crash sequence and whenever someone gets yanked into the sky. Extras include a couple of uninformative behind-the-scenes featurettes (one of which is really little more than an extended commercial) and a dull commentary from director Joseph Ruben and writer Gerald DiPego. When they do actually bother to speak, Ruben and DiPego tend to gush over the film they've concocted, which only makes sitting through the commentary that much more painful. You also get a couple of deleted scenes and an alternate ending (which is even more nonsensical than the one used in the film). You have the option of watching this footage (which is non-anamorphic with stereo audio) reintegrated into the film, but I can't imagine why you'd want to do that.
A capable cast isn't able to overcome the formidable combination of awful script and haphazard direction. You can go ahead and forget about The Forgotten. I already have.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Joseph Ruben and Writer Gerald DiPego
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