The Forgotten is three movies spliced together. The first is a by-the-numbers domestic drama. The second is a by-the-numbers action flick. The third is a sci-fi movie so bewildering and preposterous that you’ll wish you had those numbers back.
The film is almost redeemed by a typically engaging performance from Julianne Moore as Telly, a woman who believes that her son was killed in a plane crash but begins to question her sanity after all evidence of his existence disappears. Moore’s somewhat stilted portrayal suggests that she still has a tendency to delve into the same sort of overacting she displayed in The Hours. Nonetheless, her bereavement and dazed strength are compelling.
Also in The Forgotten’s favor is an irresistible premise: if all the evidence of a memory were to disappear, could the memory be retained?
The first part of the film, the domestic drama, is a darkly photographed, blue-hued expression of tortured isolation that proceeds at a slow, familiar pace. Telly stands at her son’s shirt drawer. Telly calls her psychiatrist (Gary Sinise in an unnecessary role). Telly has a strained conversation with her husband, Dr. Greene—excuse me, Anthony Edwards. You’ve seen it all before, in some other, supposedly serious fall movie.
Then, out of nowhere, the movie kicks into gear, becoming a wild, high-octane, action film. Telly meets up with a fellow parent named Ash, played by the serviceable British actor Dominic West, and goes on the run. Cars crash. People die. Instead of Sweet November, you’re suddenly watching The Recruit or Enemy of the State.
Although it might have been a more interesting idea to explore the depths of bereavement and doubt at this point, the movie’s reversion to campy action is not all bad. Telly’s run-ins with her pursuers, though repetitive, are fun and, occasionally, expertly-rendered. In terms of genuine, pulse-pounding action, The Forgotten delivers in the middle.
Then the wheels fall off. The final revelation, although utterly stunning, feels too madcap even for a movie as devoid of cohesion as this one. It’s an unnecessary twist, which seems cut from the M. Night Shyamalan mold, but in this case lacks relevance. We learn nothing about Telly’s psychological breakdown or the value of external cues as instruments of memory, and the core of the story is thereby left to blow in the wind.
It was unnecessary for director Joseph Ruben to stir sci-fi into the pot. The film had enough acting firepower and room for psychological exploration to stand on its own as a drama or even as a drama-action film. It could have spent more time on the relationship between Telly and her husband, or it could have fleshed out Sinise’s psychiatrist just a little bit. Instead, the viewer is stuck with a bizarre conclusion that leads nowhere.
Ultimately, the film is hindered by poor timing. It is predictable in ways it should be inventive, and it is bizarre in ways it needs to be consistent. And for a cast and theme with so much promise, that’s a real shame.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.