Godsend Review

"You think you can just open Pandora's box and close it again?" - Dr. Richard Wells

Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) Duncan's only child Adam (Cameron Bright) is killed in a tragic car accident the day after his eighth birthday. His grieving parents are approached shortly after their son's death by Dr. Richard Wells (Robert De Niro), a scientist doing radical genetics research who tells them that by taking a cell from Adam's body he can make a clone of the boy that will be identical to their son in every way. But there is a catch... in order for this to work, it has to been done in secrecy, so they will have to give up life as they know it and move to a new home (provided by the Doctor) and permanently cut all ties with family and friends in order to start anew with the cloned baby Adam.

The Duncans are initially hesitant, but their desperate need to have their son back wins out and they agree to the illegal procedure - nine months later a second Adam is born to Jessie and the family settles into their new home and life. Surrounded by love from his adoring parents and under the watchful eye of Dr. Wells, Adam's first eight years are happy ones, but as the cloned boy passes his own eighth birthday (the time when the original Adam died), things take an ominous turn. He begins acting out at school, experiencing night terrors and flashbacks and exhibiting violent tendencies. As his behaviour turns deadly, his confused and terrified parents search for answers as they begin to question the life and death decision they made eight years before.

Godsend is veteran British Director Nick Hamm's (The Hole, Talk of Angels) entry to the ever-popular killer kid/demon spawn horror sub-genre. Borrowing ideas from more successful films and throwing the always-controversial human cloning into the mix, Hamm and writer Mark Bomback (The Night Caller) create a promising first half-hour, but when the focus shifts from cloning to killer clone, things become inane and predictable and the film ends up being a dull hybrid of The Omen and The Sixth Sense, without the malevolence of young Damien or the brilliance of M. Night Shyamalan's taut thriller. There are a couple of decent scares and the cinematography is excellent and atmospheric, but the acting is a mixed bag and the filmmakers play it too safe with the ending.

Not given much to work with, Kinnear and Romijn-Stamos nevertheless make the most of the weak, disjointed script giving solid performances as loving parents who will do anything to get their son back, particularly Kinnear, but Cameron Bright (who portrays both Adams) doesn't fare as well. In the first half of the film he does a credible job as the original Adam, but when the cloned Adam begins exhibiting homicidal tendencies, Bright's performance becomes silly and unintentionally funny as he tries and fails to look menacing and lethal. Robert De Niro does a good enough job as the mad scientist with his own agenda, but adds yet another questionable film choice to his resume.

With subject matter this timely and fascinating, it could have been an excellent film, but the uneven directing, lack of any genuine thrills or scares and lame dialogue reduce it to schlock horror. The first half hour is genuinely intriguing as they introduce the cloning, but as time drags on, plausibility turns to absurdity and the film's ending is a cop-out that poses more questions than it answers which is a bit mind-boggling as six alternate endings were filmed, any one of which was surely better than the one they opted to use. Hamm's use of suspenseful music cues to set the audience up for an impending scare that never materialises is effective the first couple of times he does it, but they become predictable and annoying in an already-irritating film. At the end of the day, the filmmakers wasted a golden opportunity to make a film about the moral and ethical implications of cloning a human, specifically a child, choosing instead to make it straight horror - unfortunately the only horrifying thing about Godsend is its hint at a sequel.



out of 10

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