*. This is a remake of a landmark — though I think a bit overrated — BBC miniseries that first aired back in 1985. It was a good show, if a little talky and somewhat vague around the edges. The film is also talky, and downright opaque at points, but love him or hate him you have to give Mel Gibson credit for churning out decent if unexceptional mainstream entertainment.
*. So, twenty years from now which version do you think is most likely to last?
*. Cutting down a five-hour-plus miniseries to a two-hour feature should mean you lose a lot. I think they could have lost a lot more. A surprising number of characters and scenes are introduced that seem to have no purpose at all.
*. Three examples: (1) Why does Craven chase after Bennett, pull him over, beat up his driver, and pull a gun on him? Just to warn him that he’s after him? This is the point as it’s explained in an alternate version of the scene included with the DVD (where Gibson says “All you need to know is, I’m going to get you”), but I still don’t understand why he would bother running such a risk when he’s not telling Bennett anything Bennett doesn’t already know.
*. (2) Craven is stunned with a Taser and taken away to the Northmoor facility, from which he escapes. The point being? I suppose they were going to poison him there, not knowing that he’d already poisoned himself. But it’s a scene that has no purpose whatsoever in the story. It’s a complete throwaway that doesn’t advance the plot at all or provide us with any information. When I first saw Mel handcuffed to the table I was sure we were going to at least see him being tortured for a bit, because let’s face it, Mel always has to take a beating (or, in the Christian analogy he makes here, take a hanging before he starts the banging). But even that’s missing.
*. (3) Was Craven even trying to get information out of Robinson, or was he just punching him out? Unless you’re really paying attention you can easily miss who Robinson even is, not that it’s in any way important.
*. You could say much the same about some of the major characters. What purpose does Emma’s boyfriend serve? In the miniseries he’s with the anti-nuclear group and is involved with the police as well, but here he just seems to be a grease monkey.
*. Come to think of it, what does Darius Jedburgh do in this film? In the miniseries he’s played by Joe Don Baker as a Texan CIA operative (the film reverses the nationalities of Craven and Jedburgh), and he has an important role in the plot. Here he doesn’t do much of anything, and Ray Winstone seems more bored than laid back. Incredibly, he even stays up to date on what’s happening with the case by watching the local news.
*. Robert De Niro was originally signed for the part of Jedburgh, but left citing creative differences. I think he just realized that there was nothing for him in the part.
*. Roger Ebert wondered in his review about why Northmoor looks so much like the hideout of a James Bond villain. Director Martin Campbell had previously rebooted the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale so maybe there’s a connection there. It does seem a little ostentatious.
*. As for what Northmoor is up to, I confess I’m confused. Making dirty nuclear bombs to be used in American secret operations that will make it look like they’re the work of jihadi terrorists? So as a way of fighting terrorists the U.S. is going to do the worst thing they can imagine terrorists doing just so they can say the terrorists did it? Isn’t that taking false flag operations a bit far?
*. What happens at the end? When in doubt, or when incapable of coming up with a decent resolution, just kill everyone on screen. Let God sort it out.
*. OK, so we’re told on a couple of occasions that Bennett is just a psycho. But he can’t even pass for normal? Most psychos can handle that part. Why on earth would he ask Craven how it feels to have lost his daughter? What’s that about? Is he mocking him?
*. Mel Gibson is not a tall man, but playing against some men of above-average height here he looks very small.
*. I have no idea how tall he is in real life. You can go on to Hollywood insider websites that will supposedly tell you, but I don’t trust them. From the few acquaintances I’ve had with people who have been close to celebrities I think you can take it as a rule of thumb that most stars are a minimum of two and sometimes as much as four inches shorter than they are reported.
*. This is pretty standard fare for a Mel Gibson movie. His daughter is killed and he is on a mission of revenge. Family is worth that sacrifice. Then, together, the martyrs will walk toward the light.