K-Pax Review

What we have here is a strange film. A rare film, for Hollywood, in this day and age. It’s intelligent, slow paced, and refuses to give the audience all the answers. It’s a breath of fresh air. The plot is simple, and revolves around psychiatrist Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) and a mysterious patient (Kevin Spacey) known only as Prot. Prot claims to be an alien, and, of course, no one believes him, so he is sent to the 'Hollywood' mental home where he encounters Powell. Powell is, of course, skeptical, but slowly he begins to realize that things do not exactly add up and something strange is going on. It is just possible that Prot is telling the truth.

This is not a film for those with no patience, or those who don’t like too much ‘talking’. This is a slow paced film that never feels as though it is rushing towards a conclusion. Quite refreshing, and it’s a film that rewards close attention. Director Iain Softly seems more intent on creating a mood than anything else, and directs with a light touch, using the 2:35 ratio extremely well. To take an example, the placing of Prot in the film’s opening moves from the center, when we first see him, to slightly off center until he and Powell meet for the first time. Then, their images are merged, in the center again, using the device of a one-way mirror. It’s a nice touch, and opens up many of the film’s metaphors about identity.

For this is a film concerned with identity in an increasingly complex world. Powell’s character has difficulty balancing his identity as a psychiatrist with that of a husband and father. His professional life is unbalanced, and constantly eating into his other role. He takes his work home with him, and then some. The film reinforces this with a key scene in which Powell actually takes Prot home to meet his family. Prot is as capable of interacting with Powell’s family as Powell is, if not more so.

Performances in the film are good. Jeff Bridges is convincing as Powell, a good, solid role for Bridges and one for which he is well suited. Kevin Spacey is, of course, Kevin Spacey. Brilliant to watch and just oozes charisma.

This is not, however, a perfect film. There are more issues raised than it successfully deals with and it never feels as though it knows what genre it is trying for. The combination of sci-fi, mystery and drama never quite sit happily together. There is the impression that there is a lot missing, and, without reading the novel, it’s impossible to tell if this is the case. There are deleted scenes included on the disc, but these do not really add a great deal.

This is a recommended film. It is intelligent, well acted and the pace is just about right. Perhaps the best thing about it is that you will want to talk about it after it has finished. The film never explicitly gives any answers, but the clues are all there for you to pick up on. It’s well worth a second or third viewing, but it's perhaps worthwhile renting first, just to make sure you get on with it.

The DVD

Picture
Good transfer, not exceptional, but good, rich colour and good darkness levels.

Sound
Not much action from the rears, but some nice touches when appropriate. The sound of a subway train, for example. A good, clean, mix with clear dialogue, but not one that will push your system to its limits.

Extras

Deleted Scenes/Alternative Ending - There are about seven minutes of deleted scenes, none of which adds much to the film. Apart from one, which, if included, would have made quite a difference to the interpretation. No spoilers.

The alternative end is nothing drastic. It’s pretty much the same end as used in the film, minus one short scene, with some different editing.

Commentaries - Good value here, with two commentaries provided; a UK one from director Iain Softley and another US one featuring Softley and Director of Cinematography John Mathieson. Both are interesting, and add to the experience, though they do overlap at times, but this is inevitable.

Photographs from the set - As taken by Jeff Bridges himself. Interesting and quite enjoyable, but not something you will return to.

Storyboard - A few brief scenes from the film contrasted with the storyboards. Nicely done, but does not add much to the disc.

Interviews - Interviews from Spacey and Bridges.

Making of K-Pax - Typical DVD style making-off production, probably first seen on Sky or something like that. To be fair, it’s better than some of them that are out there. You will watch it once only and you know it.

Trailers - Original Cinema Trailer.

Overall

A good solid film and a nice, but not very exciting, mix of extra features make this a decent enough package. Not a film for everyone's tastes, but rewarding and interesting while it lasts. It's worth watching more than once, certainly, but it's not one that will stand up to hundreds of repeat viewings. So be careful.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

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