What's new
  • Announcing New Ownership at Home Theater Forum. Learn More

The Clearing (1 Viewer)

Dave Hackman

Stunt Coordinator
Jan 11, 2000
Willem Dafoe is excellent as the kidnapper and Robert Redford is perfect as the kidnapped husband, father/grandfather. Helen Mirren is adequate as the wife, mother/grandmother. Visually the movie looks good and has the feel of Swimming pool/The Game. The pace is set to the slowest setting and even during the FBI drop-off never really gets going. This movie takes patience and is very relaxing but ultimately unfulfilling. The highlights are the verbal sparring between Dafoe and Redford, the use of time shifts and the subdued emotions of the family. The ending is where this movie fails and is where I was hoping for more creativity and twists. Not Recommended


Elizabeth S

Senior HTF Member
May 9, 2001
Real Name
Elizabeth S
Some of my favorite performers -- certainly wonderful seeing Robert Redford again. I particularly enjoyed Helen Mirren's subtle, nuanced performance. Ultimately, I found the plot frustrating and unsatisfying.

Matthew Chmiel

Senior HTF Member
Apr 26, 2000
In a simple short sentence: The Clearing sucked.

Some great actors (Redford, Mirren, Dafoe, and Nivola) completely wasted in a film with a less than stellar script with less than stellar direction.

The huge problem I had with the film is that the audience has no sympathy for any of the characters, mostly due to the lack of the character development. How am I supposed to care about Redford, Mirren, or even Dafoe when not much light is shed onto what is going on within the film and the characters?

When the ending came, I could honestly care less what happened. It also doesn't help that the ending was one of the weakest points of the film, but it happens.

I'm just thankful I didn't pay to see this film (thanks due to a free pass Regal Cinemas gave me for filling out a survey).


Senior HTF Member
Mar 29, 2000
Hollywood, California
Real Name
A quibble: Dafoe's character placed several phone calls to Mirren's character instructing her regarding the drop off of the ransom money. We never see him place those calls, presumably while having to keep the captive Redford in sight yet not letting him and his wife speak. I found this problematic/unrealistic.


Vince Maskeeper

Senior HTF Member
Jan 18, 1999
Yeah, as Michael said- this element wasn't a mistake- it's just that the time is presented in a misleading way...

Everything you see with Redford/Dafoe happens in the first few hours: he kills him at dusk of the first night. So by the time she even reports him missing, he's pretty much dead. All the "suspense" story we see with the wife and FBI take place LONG after he's dead.

The film is slow, slow, slow. And sometimes slow is good: suspense and moment to savor character and dialog are the keys to many of the greatest films of all time- but this film has neither. The actors are so underused it's silly- although to their credit they do good with what they have.

The only character given any real development or personality is the mother, which I think is the point: revealing the nature of their husband/wife relationship and the sacrifices and "smiling faces" that have dominated her life in exchange for "security"-- these elements revealed by showing the family under the worst possible stress. Good idea, in theory, but little is done with it aside from some VERY subdued moments.

The only character I even liked was the FBI guy played by Matt Craven. MAtt kind of stole the movie for me, and I hope to see him in more character roles in the future!

I saw it for free as well, and actually attended the first 45 minutes of a second free screening to watch with my eyes closed (I often do this on films I've already seen to listen to the sound design and music)-- but if I had paid to see it I would have been disappointed.

The disjointed timelines seemed to confuse the audience I saw it with (and some members of this forum as well, it seems)-- judging by the rection of the woman I saw it with and the discussion coming out of the theater,
the storytelling structure seemed to make the audience believe the two storylines were unfolding at the same time, when they weren't.
While this has little to do with anything in terms of enjoying or understanding the plot, it does still take the audience out of the picture as they try to follow the timelines... causing confusion.

Also, one of the climax scenes:
In the fight between Redford and Dafoe, the "suspense" of Redford defeating Dafoe is there for cinematic masturbation: i could feel the audience in my screening ready to scream in unison "GET THE FUCKING GUN!" I felt the director had Redford stumble around and make no attempt to even search for the gun during/after the fight just to put the audience on edge artificially, rather than creating a suspenseful scene... it's a cheat to have characters act completely illogically to foster a tense moment, imho.

All in all, it was a D- movie in my book. Too bad I dont have access to actors this good, I imagine i could have made a much better movie by just putting them in a coffee shop and letting them have a conversation about hand cream.


If you liked The Clearing I recommend:

- Proof of Life
- You stick your head in a bucket of icewater and apologize to your family.


Senior HTF Member
Dec 31, 2003
Real Name
I enjoyed the first 3/4 of this movie largely due to the very good acting acting, but as the others indicated the ending left me flat.

Sore points:

The scene between Helen Mirren and Redford's mistress was painful to watch and felt like it was included only to allow Mirren to utter a very bad word.

The fact Redford didn't secure the gun after attempting to drown Dafoe was lousy. It was very obvious that the Dafoe character was going to "spring back to life".

Really, if you've seen the trailer, that pretty much sums up the first 75 minutes. The last 15 minutes will irritate you so why bother?

Bottom line: catch this as a matinee or wait for the HBO showing, but don't spend full price for this.


Simon Massey

Senior HTF Member
Aug 9, 2001
Abu Dhabi
Real Name
Simon Massey
Having just seen this film, I quite enjoyed it, though from the responses above I seem to be in the minority :)

I thought the performances were all very good, especially Helen Mirren. Far more of a character film than it initially appears. The trailer I saw was very misleading and anyone going into this expecting a tense thriller with Redford in action mode is going to be disappointed.

The so-called twist that the parallel stories were running at different times wasn't really a twist when you saw that all of Redford/Dafoe's scenes were shot in daylight in the same area whilst several days passed for Mirren's character.

I also felt that Redford's character made a conscious decision not to kill his kidnapper as opposed to thinking he had killed him. Not everyone is capable of killing someone, and it was an interesting choice on the part of the filmmakers when I imagine most of the audience would be screaming at the screen "KILL HIM" so they can all go home happy that everything is alright with the world.

And whilst the ending to the film may have been a slight let-down to me, I didn't feel it was out of sync with the rest of the film. In fact it was probably my own sense of expectation from a "typical" kidnapping film like this where you expect a big fight/escape attempt/frantic phone calls for help etc, or something like it. And yet we are given something far more mundane and (in all likelihood) realistic.

Brandon B

Second Unit
Mar 23, 2001
Anyone else feel like Dafoe played the role as if he was William Macy?

Everything about the role remind me of Macy, only it was Dafoe on the screen.


Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Latest member
Recent bookmarks