Review: Under Suspicion (2000)

Director: Stephen Hopkins | 110 minutes | drama, thriller, crime | Actors: Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Monica Bellucci, Nydia Caro, Miguel Ángel Suárez, Pablo Cunqueiro, Isabel Algaze, Jacqueline Duprey, Luis Caballero, Patricia Beato, Sahyly Yamile, Hector Travieso, Marisol Calero, Vanessa Shenk

Some movies seem to make sense from the first minute. The atmosphere, the sounds and the intro make you surrender with confidence to what the makers have in store for you. Awareness of structure and story development then fade into the background. ‘Under Suspicion’ is a good example of this. The beginning, middle part and plot fade in this psychological thriller, which Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman act together in a fascinating way. Under Suspicion was not an in-between project for either man. For some time they tried to get hold of the rights of ‘Garde à vue’. The novel ‘Brainwash’ by John Wainwright, together with this French production, is the great source of inspiration for ‘Under Suspicion’.

The screenplay of ‘Under Suspicion’ offers a lot of perspective for good actors. It’s the dialogues and non-verbal acting that carry the film and make it so interesting. They relate to human actions in stuffy and uncomfortable situations. Hackman and Freeman probably knew what they had to offer. Hiding behind grand film locations and noisy action scenes is not an option. Lots of close-ups and an ingenious construction to integrate flashbacks act like a magnifying glass on the acting talent. With its limited film locations, ‘Under Suspicion’ is pleasantly organized, but that makes it all the more impressive with its storyline. When wealthy judge Henry Hearst (Gene Hackman) is about to leave for a benefit gala for hurricane victims, Police Detective Victor Benezet (Morgan Freeman) calls him. When Hearst is asked to stop by the police station, it marks the beginning of a long warm and sweaty evening in Port San Juan, Puerto Rico. While the locals celebrate South American Carnival in the streets, the tension in the police station can be cut. A nice cinematic contrast that gives the film an ominous edge.

Thomas Jane (Detective Felix Owens) brings some refreshing counterbalance to the life of the two main characters. With his young dog mentality, the character brings some venom and a smile to the place. Because you will not encounter much humor in this film. ‘Under Suspicion’ is not a film in which the plot is forced to be contrived just as quickly. No all-ending car chases here and no stunt work to take the film to its directed peak. The film ends quietly, but exciting. The psychological in this thriller therefore mainly applies to the viewer. Because he or she will have to put a few things straight in his or her head.

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