Judge Daryl Loomis smashes every glass slipper he sees.
Betrayal burns deep.
Identity has always been a common theme of suspense movies, whether it's the identity of somebody else, such as a killer, or one's own identity. The latter one is rarer, but I tend to find these some of the most interesting thrillers out there. We all have to reckon with who we are at some point and turning that into some kind of conspiratorial business is great fodder for the screen. The challenge with these movies, however, is in getting them to make logical sense. The best do it with deft agility, but even one step down and they struggle to maintain credulity. Story logic is the real problem with Trap for Cinderella, an otherwise fine British thriller about a woman coming to grips with herself and her past.
Just awakened from facial reconstruction surgery after an explosion in her house, Mickie (Tuppence Middleton, The Lady Vanishes) struggles to remember even the most basic things about her life. As she journeys to rediscover her identity, she finds the diary of her old friend, Do (Alexandra Roach, The Iron Lady), who she reconnected with after years apart a few months before the accident. She died in the fire, but as Mickie reads, she begins to realize that her own best friend may have conspired with her aunt and it was really her who was supposed to die.
Director Iain Softley (The Skeleton Key), who adapted the screenplay from the novel by Sebastien Japrisot, does a really good job of keeping the truth under wraps for long enough that you actually start to believe in Mickie. Of course, there will be people who will call the twists, but while I wasn't shocked or anything by how it all went down, there were times that I really couldn't tell what was going on, and that definitely earns some respect from me.
For the first act of the movie, we don't have any reason to believe anything is wrong. It looks like a regular old amnesia story and Mickie just seems like a nice girl in a crappy circumstance. Even though her memory is still gone, she starts to accept herself as this person and begins rebuilding her old relationships. She even grieves a little when she learns of Do's death. But, just as she gets used to the idea and gets a little bit comfortable, her aunt (well-played by Julia Fox, Shallow Grave) drops a bomb: Mickie is actually Do. I swear that's the closest I'm going to get to spoilers, but that fact is important to how Softley sells the character.
Once she finds out that this is true, the movie starts working in a series of flashbacks, back to when the friends reconnected. On the surface, it seems absurd that this "Mickie" could actually be Do; I mean, this isn't Face/Off here. But it suddenly becomes plausible when we meet the old Mickie. She's an awful person, mean to everyone around her, manipulative, and completely incorrigible. New Mickie acts like old Do, so it starts to make you wonder whether this is honest. As it goes on, the flashbacks start to take more and more of a hold until we get to the explosion, and then we deal with the fallout.
No, it's not a particularly believable thriller, but a testament to the acting of Tuppence Middleton that the character is sold so well. She switches back and forth between the characters seamlessly, getting the selfishness of the old character and the kindness and confusion of the new exactly right. Alexandra Roach is an excellent foil for her, as well, and though she doesn't have as much screen time, she's a great match, both in her similar, but not too similar looks and opposite demeanor, their chemistry makes the movie.
They'd have to, because Iain Softley doesn't really add very much to the proceedings. Now, as the man behind the dreadful K-Pax, he shows clear improvement and his work doesn't detract, but it's a journeyman's job and there's nothing wrong with that. The cinematography by Alex Barber is of similar quality. There's nothing flashy, but nothing really to complain about, either. This is a movie about the performances and the mystery. In that respect, it works perfectly well.
Trap for Cinderella comes to DVD from MPI in a decent edition. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks solid, with bright colors and good clarity. It doesn't have the fine detail that it might on Blu-ray, but the image still looks pretty nice. The Dolby surround track is a little plain, with little going on in the rear channels, but it's a dialog-heavy movie, and that is always nice and clear, so it's perfectly fine. Aside from the trailer, there's about twenty minutes of interviews with the principle actors, producers, and the director, which get into many of the issues surrounding the characters and story. They're enjoyable to listen to, but it's not a particularly long slate of supplements.
While it might lose itself in all of its twists and turns, Trap for Cinderella is an elusive and intriguing thriller that is fun to guess along with. The performances are strong and it looks pretty nice, so even if, when the final moments come and it's a step over the believability line, at least it was a fun little ride.
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