Frantic

Frantic ★★★½

Frantic often draws comparisons to the works of Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma. This is certainly fair, but Frantic more-or-less feels typical regardless of influence. While comparisons to Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much stand out, as it is a fish out of water type story where Harrison Ford must navigate French customs (the plots are very dissimilar, but this element is reminiscent), Frantic really could be compared to many other thrillers. Though Roman Polanski is a great director who can take a genre, innovate on it, and improve it, Frantic really does not show this too much. Instead, it just feels like a slow burn European thriller with a far too happy and neat ending. Otherwise, it is just a pretty good and incredibly put together thriller.

Frantic is about a man, Dr. Richard Walker (Harrison Ford), who travels to France with his wife. While in the shower, she disappears. The only clue being that she was seen left leaving with another man and was possibly shoved into a car, which broke off her bracelet. However, Richard believes that the luggage she grabbed from the plane, which was not her's and was grabbed in error, may have some clue as to who took her and why. In tracking down his wife, he finds the luggage's owner, Michelle (Emmanuelle Seigner). Together, they find Richard's wife and deliver the nefarious goods inside the case to the criminals that took Richard's wife. While it may not quite be what you expect inside the luggage, the actual item is predictable when you see who the bad guys are. The film is also dragged down in regards to never deviating from classic thriller cliches along the way and its conclusion feels far too safe. It does not try to subvert expectations, rather it simply lives up to them and delivers a happy and neat ending to a film that should have been far messier. Involved with gangs, the French police, and the embassy, it is clear this is an international incident, yet Richard just tosses the nefarious goods into the water and the criminals give up. Is there some kind of statement I missed? Is this a political statement by Polanski or?

Regardless, it is quite thrilling all the same. Slowly paced and unraveling at a European pace, Frantic is thoroughly compelling and well plotted. Though largely predictable, it executes its cliches incredibly well and Polanski pairs up with Ennio Morricone to instill the film with an edgy atmosphere. While a fish out of water is hardly a new premise, Polanski does execute it well with Ford's confusion in a foreign land feeling consistently authentic and edgy. As the film progresses and his confusion - and ours - only builds, Polanski's assured direction really takes hold and keeps grasping the edge of your seat.

Acting-wise, Ford is solid. He was never a great actor and he hardly turns in a terrific performance in Frantic, but it works. He plays the concerned and angsty husband quite well, though he lacks the nervous edge to really make him soar in the work. Though he tells Michelle he is nervous, Ford's naturally calm and cool demeanor is ill-fitted for nervy. He is in control of every situation, which may not be a great match for this material. Nonetheless, he turns in a solid performance and really is admirably restrained for somebody so used to starring in action films. Alongside him, Seigner is seductive and would have convinced me to mule anything across borders. Yes, she was the mule, but if she asked me to do it for her, I would have a hard time saying no. In terms of acting, Seigner is solid and embarks on a lifelong partnership with Polanski in this film and it is not hard to see why. She is a talented actress and showcases that here in this film.

While largely quite formulaic, Frantic is a great testament to Polanski. Yes, it is partially influenced by Hitchcock, but that sells Hitchcock short, since that would be calling all of his films cliche. Frantic is cliched, but it emulates the cliches well and Polanski's directorial talents are on full display throughout. While not always engaging, it is always thrilling and a thoroughly entertaining film that focuses on thrills, not bullets.

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