Calgary Sun Review

Last Update: 28 September 2001

Source: Calgary Sun

28 September 2001


War of Word generates thrills
Calgary Sun

The less one knows about the intricacies of Don't Say a Word the more fun and thrills it delivers.

Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) is an eminent New York psychiatrist whose specialty is working with troubled youths.

He has a booming, affluent practice and an equally enviable personal life.

His wife Aggie (Famke Janssen) is nursing a seriously broken leg from a skiing accident, but it's a minor inconvenience.

They both dote on their young daughter Jessie (Skye McCole Bartusiak). On the eve of Thanksgiving, Nathan is called to an emergency at a state-run mental institution by a former colleague Louis Sachs (Oliver Platt).

The hospital has just inherited a violent young patient named Elisabeth Burrows (Brittany Murphy), who has spent most of the past 10 years in and out of institutions with a new diagnosis from each new doctor. Sachs wants Nathan to see if he can spot what is really wrong with her.

In his brief interview with her, Elizabeth tells Nathan that he will never get what "they" want from her. It seems like an appropriately delusional comment until Nathan wakes up the next morning.

Jessie has been kidnapped.

The kidnappers give him eight hours to get an eight digit number that Elizabeth has buried somewhere in her subconscious. Don't Say a Word works remarkably well on several levels and in several locations simultaneously.

Aggie cannot leave her bed because of her broken leg so she becomes an easy prey for the kidnappers should they ever decide to menace her and, of course, they will. Jessie is in another apartment with the kidnappers. Like the young girl in Along Came a Spider, she is no whimpering babe in the woods. She's a very clever, resourceful child. Perhaps a little too resourceful to suit Koster (Sean Bean), the determined, merciless head kidnapper. Nathan and Elizabeth work through their analysis in different locations always linked to Koster and his gang by listening devices.

In what only temporarily seems like an unrelated subplot, detective Sandra Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito) is working on a pair of homicides in which the victims' necks were snapped by human hands.

The closer Nathan gets to Elizabeth's terrifying secret the more she seems to retreat, plunging his daughter further into jeopardy. These are the ground rules of Don't Say a Word.

It may be a paint-by-number psychological thriller, but some of the colours director Gary Fleder and the cast bring to the pallet make this a superior mix of suspense, terror and surprise.

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