a critiQal film review Gothika (2003)

Plot: Dr. Miranda Grey (Berry) is a respected psychiatrist at the Woodward Penitentiary for Women. One day, she wrecks her car on her drive home veering to avoid a girl standing in the road. The next thing she knows, it's 3 days later and she's now an inmate at the penitentiary for brutally murdering her husband. Now, with images of the girl haunting her, she must piece together what has happened to her.

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  • ...Halle Berry delivers in this smart, tense thriller.

I saw the previews for Gothika a little while ago and wanted to see this movie. It looked interesting and I wanted to know how Dr. Grey (Berry) got to be a mental patient.

So when Reid and I were picking up The Rundown at Blockbuster® the other day we ended up picking up this one for cheap also (they have an awesome deal where certain new movies you can pick up for $12.99 when you bring in a used DVD and trade it in).

Before we watched the movie we decided to check out the music video included on the DVD, “Behind Blue Eyes” by Limp Bizkit. It shows Fred Durst and Halle Berry trading places as doctor/patient. It kind of set the mood for the movie since it showed exactly why I wanted to see the film. Plus, it’s an awesome song. So would the music video be the best part of the DVD or is Gothika worth owning, even if you don’t like Limp Bizkit’s new song?

I think Halle Berry did a great job in this film. She was able to portray the “psycho” Dr. Grey as well as the “sane” Dr. Grey with the same ease. She has the viewer believing that she is “psycho”. Her performance really keeps the viewer tuned in since she makes you want to find out what happens next to the character.

I really can’t compare her performance in this movie to any others off the top of my head, her performance in X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 (2003) does not seem as in depth as she had to be with the character she is portraying in Gothika.

In those two films if Berry had sucked you could’ve still enjoyed the film as there were many other main characters that could have carry the movie without her. With Gothika, if she had done a horrible job portraying her character it would’ve ruined the film as she WAS the main character.

I know that Reid hated her Oscar® winning performance in Monster’s Ball (2001) (which I haven’t seen), but if her acting continues to be as good as it is in Gothika, it will be interesting to see if she can make Catwoman (2004) worthwhile when that comes out.

Robert Downey, Jr. plays Dr. Graham, who is another doctor at Woodward. The only thing that sticks out in my mind that he has been in lately, is on “Ally McBeal” (TV). On the TV show he seemed to be warm, caring and waiting with open arms whenever Ally needed him. However, in Gothika, he doesn’t really seem to care about Dr. Grey, although there is one scene before she goes “psycho” that you can tell he may feel something more. His character is really not that big of a part in the film, but it helps to show the difference between “sane” colleague Dr. Grey and his patient “psycho” Dr. Grey.

Penélope Cruz didn’t really impress me in this movie as she didn’t really seem to give it her all and she just moved through the motions in her role as a fellow inmate.

The plot catches your attention right from the start by the way the movie is filmed. It starts out showing her life as “normal”, then it takes you along with her while she tries to piece together what has happened to her. It keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what could possibly happen next.

I like the way the film was shot because it shows you how she went about her “normal” day to day life as the psychiatrist in the penitentiary and then suddenly changes to looking through her eyes with her as she wakes up in the penitentiary as the patient, then trying to piece together how she got there. It will instantly keep the viewer watching, waiting to see how it turns out and what happened to make her become a patient instead of a psychiatrist.

The ending could have been wrapped up a little better, since it leaves too many things unexplained. It does leave it open for a sequel, so maybe it will all be explained in the second film, if there is one.

While most of the special effects are pretty mundane things, just set in strange places (i.e. girl in the middle of the road), some of the special effects are really impressive (i.e. breath and marking on the glass, her arm being mysteriously scratched in the showers). Overall, the filmmakers did a good job interspersing normality, oddity and the supernatural together to create a great eerie feel to the film. The special effects team did a good job on the effects, so the feel of the film is never disrupted.

All in all, I really enjoyed Gothika. The filmmakers did a great job with casting Halle Berry as the main character. Halle Berry performed extremely well and really helped involve the viewer with her performance. Combine that performance with a well shot film that makes good use of differing special effects to create an eerie feel that keeps the viewer watching, and you have a great film.

Rent or buy Gothika today if you’re looking for a smart thriller, because I’m sure you’ll want to know what has happened to Dr. Grey as much as I did. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with this one.

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