Release Date: August 9, 2009
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman
Fresh from the crop of newly-released Film Festival treats comes this new suspense thriller. Having lost their third baby at birth, Kate and John Coleman are looking to adopt an older child into their growing family. They meet and fall in love with Esther, a 9-year-old orphan from Russia with an extraordinary English vocabulary and talent for the arts. Though it is clear that Esther is ‘different’ from the other children, Kate and John decide to bring her into their family and create a home for her. After a few unusual incidents at the house, however, Kate begins to suspect that Esther isn’t quite what she seems.
If this sounds like your typical scary movie plot, you wouldn’t be far off. We’ve all seen the spooky story about mysterious people with thick foreign accents not quite able to fit into society but when it comes to this film, somehow, it works. Rather than follow Kate (Vera Farmiga) on her quest to find out whether her new daughter is really who she says she is, this film does what many thrillers don’t – Shows us what the characters don’t know. We’re right next to Esther through every gruesome detail of her ‘accidents’ and are there to witness the lies she continues to unfold to her unsuspecting father and wary mother. We know from the first half hour that Esther is dangerous and that is why this film succeeds at creating the tension and atmosphere all good thrillers are made of. There’s only one thing scarier than a suspected psychopath, and that’s a proven psychopath. Esther’s power over her new brother and sister (who are also witnesses to her psychotic tendencies) is spine-chilling. She holds them – and us - prisoners in their own house, taking away their free will and ability to tell the ‘grown-ups’ what’s really going on.
Unfortunately, what begins as a strong story, pulling the audience in to the ambience of every scene, fails at an equally-potent climax. The “twist” feels too last-minute thought-up and, what could have been an original piece of cinema, is rushed and tainted with silliness and fight scenes that have been recreated over and over before.
In spite of this, the performances from the actors are strong. Twelve-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman has found her breakout role as Esther, adopting a Russian accent and numerous guises to tempt, tease, and terrify the audience into never forgetting her. She shines at drawing us in with her soft-spoken voice and excels at creating the best jolts of fear.
King of the character actors, Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead, Flight Plan) makes the most out of a one-dimensional father role, and Farmiga (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) shows enough heart and courage to make us forget that her character’s ‘demons’ are nothing new.
Those who love a good scare will get everything they want out of Orphan, though it’s best to be warned that scenes can get quite gruesome and gory at times. Director, Jaume Collet-Serra, has made sure to hold nothing back.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009