Fissure (2008) Movie Review

(Movie Review by Dan MacIntosh) The plot for Fissure works on several different levels: First, it takes our commonly held concept of time, and turns that on its head. Detective Paul Grunning (played by James MacDonald) is the film’s main character who inadvertently walks into a scientific experiment where time has mysteriously been divided and reshuffled, much like a deck of cards. The main trouble with the timing of Grunning’s science party crash is that it happens simultaneous to his investigation of a domestic disturbance case. And wouldn’t you know it, the case just happens to take place at the epicenter of this unusual experiment. Furthermore, this so called “domestic disturbance” call actually turns out to be a murder case; one where the murder victim is also our time-twisting scientist. Of course, as with all murder investigations, a proper event chronology is essential. But the whole sci-fi monkey wrench thrown into Grunning’s job makes it nearly impossible for him to get a handle on what happened, and when.

The storyline for Fissure also grabs and holds the viewer’s attention because of Grunning’s unique set of circumstances. You see, when we join the story, it is right after he had just accidentally shot and killed his only son during a dispute with a disgruntled criminal he’d helped convict. This all happened in a flash while the criminal was attempting to take the young boy hostage. But before we learn about the cause of Grunning’s pain, the film opens with a scene where Grunning is attending a grief help group; a meeting he only attends because internal affairs forced him to do so. Also, there is an early shot showing Grunning taking medication, presumably to help deal with his grief. Thus, when he later starts to witness the facts of his weird case change chameleon-like, as though these “facts” had minds of their own, he begins to take all this craziness personally. If things don’t make sense, he reasons, surely it must be because he is cracking up. In fact, at one point he even calls his wife at home in hopes of anchoring his sanity. Thankfully, she was still there, just as he left her, whereas the people at the crime scene appear to be in constant flux.

As fascinating as its overall storyline is, however, there are a few sticking points that slightly hamper this movie’s believability. A primary trouble spot is the absolute un-likeability of the Ulster family, the crime scene house inhabitants Grunning is called upon to investigate. Emma, the wife of the victim, is a total dingbat, and the son, Andrew, is a cold fish. None in this Ulster clan act even like they’re in the same family, and do not express one iota of love to one another. This prevents us from having any empathy toward them.

Another problematic area is how Grunning engineers quick reconciliation between Professor Roger Ulster, the scientist/victim, and his baseball-loving son. It’s more than clichéd to suggest that the elder Ulster cannot show love toward his son, simply because the boy loves baseball rather than science. After all, parents just want their kids to be happy and successful, not carbon copies of themselves. Although Grunning and Roger Ulster only talk onscreen about this father-son meeting, presumably all it took was one little chat to solve a lifetime of philosophical differences. Ah, if only life were that simple! This parental relationship-mending section of the film comes off as contrived and unnecessary, as though the filmmakers felt they needed to add more humanity to help bolster an otherwise simple suspense story. The suspense factor was already high enough to carry the film; we didn’t need the added human interest scenes to keep us hooked. Besides, Grunning’s emotional dilemma is more than enough of a human factor to lock in our attention.

But even with its relatively few shortcomings, Fissure is still worth a look. It’s especially great fun to see how director Russ Pond has taken two distinct genres – sci-fi and crime – and melded them together in a unique way. In so doing, Pond has made unexpected fissures in our movie plot expectations, and mostly with great success.

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Russ Pond (director) / Nicholas Turner (screenplay)
CAST: James MacDonald … Paul Grunning
Scarlett McAlister … Sarah Grunning
Jim Blumetti … Roger Ulster
Crystal Mantecon … Rachel Claris
Jane Willingham … Emma Ulster
Noah Podell … Matty Grunning
Todd Terry … Tyler

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