The Forgotten” is a hard film to review, in much the same way that it is hard to properly articulate the feelings brought about by an extended bout of vomiting. This is Hollywood at its worst, a lame, by the numbers retread of a dozen better films and infinitely more inventive episodes of “The X-Files”, which simply fails to entertain on every imaginable level. The film is little more than a cheap, insulting cash in on the continuing thirst for conspiracy theories, an easy target which it nevertheless somehow still manages to miss by a mile.
In these uncertain times, paranoia and distrust are all too common, yet “The Forgotten” is so lazy and shoddily made that it actually serves to diffuse such anxieties, and is more likely to elicit laughter from the viewer, followed by a vague sense of annoyance at having wasted an hour and a half of their life. There is an absolute and indeed obvious lack of effort here, and the film comes across as an odious, unwanted and confused piece of trash that was only made to help level up the studio’s balance sheets.
Certainly, it is almost impossible to imagine anyone being inspired by such an unoriginal concept of such unambitious scope, and so it can only be assumed that it was made as a tax write off or to fulfill some kind of obscure contractual agreement. Whatever the case may be, it could never be argued that “The Forgotten” was made with any kind of genuine attempt to entertain, as this is truly dire stuff, a film which acts as a damning indictment of the lack of creativity in contemporary Hollywood cinema.
The plot has an admittedly intriguing opening: a woman, who has spent the last fourteen months trying to get over the tragic death of her young son, is suddenly told that her memories are in fact false and that she never had a child. This revelation comes to her after she returns home one day to find all of her son’s pictures missing, and all evidence of his existence having been erased. However, she cannot let go of her memories and, convinced that something sinister is afoot, begins a desperate search for the truth.
This takes up around ten minutes of the film, and in the name of fairness, in case anyone is unfortunate to have it inflicted upon them, I will refrain from revealing anything further, though to be honest, anyone who has seen the trailer already has a very good idea of where the story goes. The fact that the trailer reveals almost the entire plot of the film is a pretty accurate representation of its confusion and of director Joseph Ruben’s inability to properly handle any of the film’s would-be surprises and twists. This is no great surprise, given that Ruben’s career has floundered badly since his classic film “The Stepfather”, and his recent films, including the lamentable “Money Train”, can quite charitably be described as ‘awful’.
Although there are a number of thematic shifts in the narrative, Ruben seems unsure whether to treat them as crucial revelations or mere plot developments, and as a result the viewer is confused, and is often left wondering whether or not things we have been shown are supposed to be important or not. The film simply plods along without any enthusiasm or conviction, casually throwing in events now and again in a fashion that makes it more and more clear as the running time drags on that there is very little to the narrative beyond the initial high concept premise. Since the viewer knows early on exactly where the film is going, “The Forgotten’s” inability to shift up a gear and deliver thrills of any description rapidly becomes tiresome, annoying, and ultimately, soul destroying.
This is made all the worse by the fact that the script, by Gerald Di Pego (who cursed the world with the Lopez vanity vehicle “Angel Eyes”) is under the illusion that it is far more intelligent than it is. Without going into any great detail about the nature of the central conspiracy, it’s safe to say that the film relies heavily upon coincidences for its narrative progression, and the fact that the supposedly super intelligent sinister forces behind it all have a penchant for leaving incriminating photographs simply lying around. This pushes things into the realms of the ludicrous, as viewers try in vain to stifle laughter at the thought of these people posing quite happily in front of the evidence, smiling away, despite the fact that they are involved in some kind of sophisticated evil scheme.
“The Forgotten” never actually gets around to explaining exactly what this scheme is, and without any kind of background or mythos, the viewer is left floundering in a sea of disinterest. Some films succeed by throwing in tantalizing glimpses of their secrets, allowing the audience to work things out for themselves; “The Forgotten”, on the other hand, seems to be clueless. Perhaps this would not have been so glaringly obvious if there had been enough action to distract from the film’s essential dullness. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as the trailer shows almost all of the film’s meager quotient of special effects and ‘excitement’, though the use of the word is hardly appropriate. It is also worth noting that the film only avoids a ‘PG’ rating through a single and incredibly gratuitous use of bad language.
The final nail in the coffin is the atrocious acting. Julianne Moore, looking more gaunt and cadaverous than ever, is wholly unbelievable in a role which shifts wildly between high pitched bleating and a sudden transformation into a low-rent Ripley. Dominic West is equally at fault, playing an intensely annoying ‘movie drunk’ who spends half the film swigging from a bottle, and then suddenly decides to pour it down the sink and quit when he is required to show more manly qualities.
The bottom line is that “The Forgotten” is absolutely awful, and without any redeeming features. Even by the lamentable standards of modern Hollywood, this is a poor, poor effort that offers even the least discriminating of viewers nothing more than a limp-wristed slap in the face.
Joseph Ruben (director) / Gerald Di Pego (screenplay)
CAST: Julianne Moore …. Telly Paretta
Christopher Kovaleski …. Sam
Anthony Edwards …. Jim Paretta
Jessica Hecht …. Eliot
Gary Sinise …. Dr. Jack Munce