Directed by Brad Anderson
What if the people you love most don’t actually exist? That’s the elevator pitch for Netflix newest entry into their thriller canon. This literal clickbait is the sort of movie that’s meant to get described with adjectives like “psychological” or “mind-bending” – a tale where we don’t know what’s real or not. Sam Worthington stars as Ray: a devoted dad whose relationship with his wife (Rabe) has seen better days. As they – slowly – drive cross-country they stop at a rest area where his daughter Peri (Capri) takes a tumble and breaks her arm. Ray races to the hospital where there is lots of waiting, and many hoops to leap through – a clear commentary on underfunded medical services in the States. Then after his little girl finally gets taken in for treatment, she and her mum seem to vanish. Ray has no idea where they are, and to make matters worse, nobody else has seen them. They also seem to think he came in alone.
This idea has been done a few times before: is her cracking up or is there a conspiracy? Most notably, Hitchcock did it with The Lady Vanishes. Though there have also been a few duff imitations, including The Forgotten and Flight Plan. There are also elements from several other films that get borrowed, which I won’t specify for risk for spoilers. Needless to say that if you’ve seen many films, I think you’ll know roughly where the plot is going from an early stage, and the kinds of predicaments the main character will find themselves in. You can likely also guess that it’ll use one of the about three different endings you’ve seen before. And while you may not guess the solution, which I personally didn’t, I doubt you’ll be especially surprised when it happens. Though you may be disappointed since it’s the sort of awkward one that renders a lot of the film a bit pointless. The thing is, while Fractured doesn’t do the concept badly per se, it does so without a unique identity of its own. The plot beats are the same. The cold, muted colours and the sterile atmosphere of the hospital are what you’d expect from other films. And once we know what’s going on, the themes are subgenre signatures. Still, at least it looks pretty.
With some great work on TV shows and movies alike, including Session 9 and The Machinist, Brad Anderson is normally a safe pair of hands. Particularly given the concept, while not hugely original, is in line with the sorts of ambiguous suspense flicks he has excelled at in the past. As per usual, he uses the setting well, capturing a remote and unforgiving landscape. This aesthetic helps establish a genuine sense of danger at the start when Ray momentarily lets his guard down, putting Peri in a precarious position. I even found myself shouting at the TV, despite knowing she’d have to fall for there to even be a story to tell: it was excellent. Sadly, this sense of urgency is largely absent for the 90 minutes to follow. Try as he may, Anderson is not enough able to inject the narrative with the shot of adrenaline it needs to function as a thriller. Too much of the second act and parts of the third revolve around the same repetitive conversations between Ray and the various medical staff who tell him he’s crazy. Thus at the points where he ought to be putting his foot on the peddle, the movie stalls. The tension is also reduced by a samey score, with similar strings of piano keys jingling away regardless of whether they match the action onscreen. Which is mostly just Ray getting told off or looking confused.
Speaking of him, it’s been ages since I saw Sam Worthington in anything substantial. Following a string of mediocre but successful films, including Avatar, Terminator Salvation and Clash of the Titans, he seems to have found a home in TV and video games. He’s on form here, taking a fairly dry script but playing the part with enough panic, confusion and exhaustion to make us just about care what happens to him. The tight focus on him means the script barely characterises the other parts. Rabe and Capri are both very good performers, though are done a disservice by scant screen-time. The rest are mostly public servants, who show up to be unhelpful, guide Ray between scenes or give exposition dumps when necessary. They have to be there for the story to work, so in as much as the film exists they have to too. Which brings me to the inevitable question of whether I feel my life would be different if this movie were never to actually been a part of it. And really, I don’t think that I’d miss it. However, in the event it did cease to exist I’d challenge anyone to say they hadn’t seen it before.
Fractured is available now on Netflix