Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'The Others' Provided a Supernatural Thrill

"Sometimes the world of the dead gets mixed up with the world of the living."

Mrs. Mills
"The Others" (2001)

I have a lot of admiration for Nicole Kidman.

I believe she has given some brilliant performances — even if she hasn't always had great material with which to work.

That wasn't the problem with the film that premiered 10 years ago today — "The Others."

"The Others" was a top–notch ghost story, and I thought Kidman did a great job of portraying an ordinary woman caught up in extraordinary circumstances but striving, nevertheless, to make everything seem as ordinary as possible.

That's a tall order when your children are so light–sensitive that they must be protected from sunlight at all times.

I suppose that should have been considerably more than a hint to Kidman's character that things weren't what they appeared to be — but if people behaved logically in ghost stories, there would be no ghost stories, would there?

Actually, I think 2001 was the year Kidman really emerged as a major actress, even though she had been around for quite awhile — and in some high–profile roles, too.

She had been showing up in movies for several years, but she really began to catch people's attention in her American debut in 1989's "Dead Calm," and she continued to get attention with roles opposite Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman and Michael Keaton. Then she seemed to break out as a star in her own right in 1995's "To Die For."

But then she vanished from the scene, re–emerging as Cruise's co–star in "Eyes Wide Shut." The next time folks heard from Kidman, she and Cruise were splitting up, and she embarked on the next phase of her career.

In 2001, Kidman returned to the silver screen with "Moulin Rouge!" (a musical), "The Others" (a ghost story) and "Birthday Girl" (a crime/love story), demonstrating her versatility.

She went on to co–star with Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore in "The Hours" and won an Oscar.

Her career has been sporadic in recent years, but I think she really became a major film star 10 years ago — and "The Others" had a lot to do with that. Now, she has reached a point where she can select her projects with more discrimination.

A lot of folks didn't really notice at the time, though. "The Others" had been in theaters only a month when the 9/11 attacks occurred, and, like just about everything else, it was overshadowed by that event.

I won't take time and space discussing the story in "The Others" because you might want to watch a good ghost story when Halloween rolls around in a couple of months.

But I will tell you it was set in the English countryside (aren't all really good, spooky ghost stories set in the English countryside — or something very similar?) around the end of World War II.

I've heard "The Others" compared — unfavorably — to "The Sixth Sense," which was released a couple of years earlier. The comparison isn't really fair. Both films deal with life and the existence of the afterlife, but I found more of a supernatural emphasis in "The Others" — and that meant a story that I found to be more thought–provoking. Not necessarily better, just more thought–provoking.

"The Sixth Sense," on the other hand, seemed to appeal more to the tastes of horror film fans — blood, gore, repugnant images, the stuff that makes you jump in your seat and gives you goose pimples and a definite chill down your back.

(Similarly, I guess, I always found the book upon which the movie "The Exorcist" was based to be better than the movie itself. The movie was obsessed with the flashy special effects of possession while the book delved more deeply into the subject of the rite of exorcism and religious issues.)

If you haven't seen "The Others" before, it has a real twist ending in store for you. You might — in fact, you probably will — need to watch it a second (or third) time to catch what you missed the first.

That is how it was with "The Sixth Sense" — and isn't it true of the best supernatural thrillers?