The X-Files 2: I Want to Believe (2008)
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Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Xzibit, Callum Keith Rennie, Adam Godley, Alex Diakun, Nicki Aycox, Carrie Ruscheinsky, Marco Niccoli, Spencer Maybee, Denis Krasnogolov, Fagin Woodcock, Veronika Hadrava
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|Movie Review by Jarrod |
July 27th, 2008
'The X-Files' ended as a series in 2002, in its concluding seasons, Robert Patrick replaced David Duchovny as the male lead, and Gillian Anderson retained her role as Dana Scully. Admittedly, I was not an avid fan of the show, but I know several people who are; X-philes they call themselves, and they own all the episodes on DVD, have many of them memorized, have accumulated a collection of memorabilia, and waited with breathless anticipation for a film like this to be released. Yes, it reunites Mulder and Scully, bringing Duchovny back, and creator Chris Carter guides the story as director and co-writer. Mulder and Scully have both left the FBI and are living together, though the romantic dimensions of their relationship are not fully explored, even the sexual tension that existed between them on television is largely subdued.
Another dynamic is that Mulder is a firm believer in paranormal activity, while Scully is more of a skeptic, devoted to science and dismissing anything that strikes her as scientifically impossible. Scully calls Mulder out of obscurity to help on a puzzling new case, one that involves a missing agent, and a former priest named Joseph Crissman (Billy Connolly) with psychic powers. Joe is crucial to unraveling the central mystery, or so it would seem, and he is able to lead the police through a large field and pinpoint the exact location of a severed arm. Scully thinks Joe might be a fraud, and perhaps he is; she also does not like him or trust him because he is a convicted pedophile, and the nature of his alleged crimes is what repulses Scully so strongly.
Scully works as a surgeon, and is emotionally attached to one of her patients, a young child who suffers from a serious neurological illness. Saving his life is her top priority. Anderson has said that she found it difficult to re-connect with this character after such a lengthy hiatus, but she steps comfortably back into Scully's shoes, a sympathetic, charismatic, and commanding presence, on-target right from the start. Duchovny revives some of Mulder's dryly humorous personality, but his performance is bland and forgettable, at least compared to Anderson's.
Mulder confronts the possibility of returning to his old career. Scully, meanwhile, is undergoing a crisis of faith, facing a grave medical dilemma, and is also re-evaluating her relationship with Mulder, which could potentially destroy her and conjure up unpleasant thoughts from the past she hopes to forget. Billy Connolly is terrific as the guilt-ridden Joe, who wants to atone for his sins, and reaffirm his commitment to God. He is baffled by his clairvoyance. I was surprised to learn that Connolly is a stand-up comic by trade; his haunting and powerful performance here would not indicate that. Amanda Peet has a slim and completely functional role as agent Dakota Whitney, and rapper Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner displays a lot of intensity as Mosley Drummy, yet another agent. It is mostly Mulder who participates in the investigation; Scully spends a majority of her time at the hospital, preoccupied by her alternative professional duties. Therefore, there is not really a whole lot of collaboration between them, except when it is required by the script.
Carter thus takes the movie in an unexpected direction, focusing on darker and more mature thematic content, and downplaying sci-fi and horror elements. I suppose any film with material about people who may or may not be psychic could still be classified as science fiction, but there is a notable absence of aliens, ghosts, spaceships, and any other kind of bizarre creature or phenomenon. Mulder was previously obsessed with aliens, but appears to have grown beyond it. Carter has turned this into more of a drama, as well as an absorbing and intelligent thriller.
The plot is intriguing, but seems comprised of many events that are little more than spectacular and highly unlikely coincidences, that all converge at precisely the right moment to provide a clue and move things along. This is illustrative of sloppy structure. Also, I felt like a few things were deliberately left unexplained, and I did not understand all that transpired. But I think I got most of it. Maybe it all made perfect sense in Carter's head.
This is the second cinematic 'X-Files' endeavor; the last one was released a decade ago, and was entitled Fight the Future (or was that the tagline?). That outing was designed explicitly as a fast-paced sci-fi tale. 'I Want to Believe' is slower-paced, but better, and is ultimately a more rewarding experience.
Don't expect violence or scares. There are FBI agents walking around with guns, but no bullets are fired. Nothing gets blown up. There are some disturbing images, but nothing that would surpass the boundaries of the PG-13 rating. The cinematography by Bill Roe is impressive in how it photographs the wintry landscapes, and evokes a feeling of almost surrealistic isolation. And remember that the bulk of the movie is set in West Virginia, with all that snow, you might be inclined to think of Alaska.
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