The Mothman Prophecies Review
It's always the kiss of death when films place a tag at the beginning stressing that they are based on actual events, as the audience usually takes every thing the film says as gospel and in turn elevates it to a higher level of status. You only have to look at a film such as Fargo to note that this notion is ridiculous, as Joel and Ethan Coen claim that they lied about the film's authenticity. Also, one should bear in mind that films are perfectly happy to rewrite history, such as U-571. The Mothman Prophecies, the latest effort from Mark Pellington (director of the conspiracy theorists' dream Arlington Road) starts with such a claim. However, this claim is a substitution for a satisfactory conclusion, since Pellington feels that because the story is true the film doesn't have to deliver on that 'twist' ending.
The Mothman Propechies has all of the makings of a masterful thriller for the first ninety percent of the film. Richard Gere is John Klein, a Washington Post reporter who is involved in a freak car accident that eventually kills his wife. Just before dying, Klein's wife tells of a horrific sight she witnessed seconds before the crash, and yet refuses to elaborate further. After her death, Klein discovers hundreds of scribbled drawings by his wife that illustrate a moth-like picture. Klein thinks nothing of it, until two years later he finds himself miles from his original location without any explanation. The place is Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Klein cannot explain how he has managed to travel four hundred miles in ninety minutes. After a series of bizarre encounters with the town's locals, Klein starts to suspect something sinister is occurring, and after becoming friendly with local cop Sgt. Connie Parker (Laura Linney), Klein realises that his wife wasn't alone in seeing visions of moths. Thus Klein plunges himself headfirst into a quest for answers and hopefully a solution to his wife's bizarre death.
The main problem with The Mothman Prophecies is that it doesn't give anything away to the audience at any point; it dangles plot solutions in front of you and pulls them away when you attempt to grab them. This is fair enough if the film's conclusion is suitably satisfying, and yet unfortunately for this film the ending is not, and you will leave the cinema with many unresolved issues regarding the film. Based on a true story or not, you are still paying money for a film with a decent plot resolution. This is a shame, as director Pellington, despite the heavy overindulgence in visual cinematic tricks, manages to handle the film very effectively for the most part. It isn't a film with a few jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but rather an eerie and unsettling experience that will forever prevent you from relaxing in your chair whilst watching it. Performances are excellent, particularly Gere and Linney, re-teaming after the excellent Primar Fear, who share great on-screen chemistry despite the lack of romantic interaction between the two. Indeed, they seem almost like an alternative Mulder & Scully - one ready to believe anything and one always slightly sceptical. Will Patton and Alan Bates have good supporting turns also.
To summarise, The Mothman Prophecies is an excellent film with a deeply unsatisfactory ending. Maybe that is exaggerating slightly, as the film contains many interesting moments, even if it is screaming out to be a conventional thriller with a twist ending.