This film is 2 things: Technically it could fit into Noirvember, as it is a crime/court thriller. At the same time it is a Thanksgiving movie recommended to me by a friend when I was discussing detective mysteries. This film slipped under my radar at the time of its release, and now that I’ve seen it, we can discuss its contents. This is Fracture.
Directed by Gregory Hoblit (who also directed Primal Fear in 1996, so you know what you’re in for if you saw that one) and set in Los Angeles in the modern day (2007), our story revolves around two characters in particular; Theodore “Ted” Crawford (played by Anthony Hawkins) and Willy Beachum (played by Ryan Gosling). Ted Crawford is a wealthy aeronautical engineer whose skill in his craft is so good that he could finish work quickly enough and well enough to go home early. And go home he did, as he decided to wait in the dark for Mrs Jenny Crawford (plays by Embeth Davidtz). Jenny, Ted’s beautiful wife, is having an affair. She goes to a hotel under a different alias and spends intimate time with Police Lieutenant Rob Nunally (played by Billy Burke) – something Ted knew about after doing a bit of personal sleuthing over a period of time. Ted shoots Jenny when she gets home, and prepares the scene of the crime before calling the cops. Lieutenant Nunally shows up and to his great dismay, ends up identifying the victim as his anonymous fling. Ted then begins to taunt Nunally (as any jealous and potentially sociopathic husband might in the same situation) to the point of making the scene look like Police brutality. Leading to an arrest where nobody looked good (Because, you know, it’s a cop beating up a 70 year old man). From here, we are introduced to the film’s protagonist Willy Beachum, a young attorney due for a promotion, who is looked favourably upon by his current boss, Joe Lobruto (David Strathairn), and his future boss, Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike). Beachum’s success comes from him simply taking on the cases that he knows he can win, and therefore has no challenges, a mere aesthetic of personal growth, and his accomplishments look good on paper. He takes on the Ted Crawford case with the assumption that, like Ted at the beginning of the film, he can go in, win the case, and go home or go to a VIP party. However, due to how meticulous Ted was at preparing the crime scene – Willy’s in for a quite the roller coaster.
Now to see what we as viewers have and haven’t taken for granted:
The acting is very good, and in its own way amuses me – the character interactions and dialogue were presented in such a way that it felt and sounded like an action or sports movie. Making the slightly mundane appear more testosterone fuelled. Lots of snappy quifs, talking about lawyers as “fast rising stars” like they were racing drivers or athletes, with the best ones carrying themselves like movie stars blending in with celebrities. And of course when people are angry in this movie, they throw things! Anthony Hopkins puts on a good “Anthony Hopkins performance”, the kind that could be seen by some as phoned-in, but he is such a good actor that it doesn’t matter. I’ve always been a little indifferent with Ryan Gosling, but here he is very good at playing a southern boy who evidently moved to Los Angeles to make his fortune.
The characters and story continue on from what I said about the acting, that there is a lot more testosterone in this film with everyone talking (a little bit) like Arnie and Sly (okay, not the best examples, but it can get a little over the top). Willy Beachum carries himself like he was Bruce Wayne because of his success on the job, and so he enters this case with a hint of bravado as he assumes this will be easy, and falls into a trap. Afterwards he goes from Lawyer to Detective, wises up and stops thinking this was going to be a breeze. One quality that sticks out about him, is that he desires no corruption or shortcuts. He wants to make no mistakes or to cheat his way into winning. He is a rebel who makes it clear that there is to be no false evidence, and everything is to be by-the-book. Even the corrupt cops who want to help him start to feel the edge. Meanwhile his case with Ted Crawford in prison can be taken as either a negotiation or a game…So here is Anthony Hopkins, in prison, playing a mind game with an authority figure…He’s very good in this role.
Mychael and Jeff Danna’s musical score is beautiful, haunting and (in places) with a hint of tension and espionage in its tone. The piece called ‘The Rube’ evoking all kinds of emotions through its use of minor key piano and strings. It is one of the strongest characteristics of this movie…and that’s even with Anthony Hopkins in it.
The locations are pretty good, and I like that they used Fred Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall as a setting (As I always wanted to see what it looked like inside). We really get a sense of Ted’s personal accomplishment from his place of work to his choice of house and car (never mind having a beautiful young wife) and we sense Willy’s rise in ranks, as he has ticked some boxes, but not all (depending on the boxes of course; some people see big house, nice car and marriage as “making it”, but some others won’t. Willy’s got a lovely, vintage BMW though).
The cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau is phenomenal! Very beautifully shot! You could screenshot half of this film if you watch it on your PC or Mac. Tremendous lighting as well.
Would I recommend Fracture? Yes I would. It’s a very good cat and mouse court film with small whiffs of cheese, some fantastic visuals and a good story about pride coming before the fall (and then wising up). It’s not your typical Thanksgiving film, but it can be enjoyed all year around if you were that way inclined.