Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 6th, 2009
“If you look closely, you’ll find that everything has a weak spot, where it can break….”
The same can be said for Fracture. There are plenty of flaws, and if you look hard enough you can find a lot of problems with everything from the story to the performances. Thankfully these flaws are quite minor and require the kind of scrutiny that would likely ruin almost any movie experience. I taught law for about 7 years and make it a bit of a (bad?) habit to look for the errors in court and legal procedures. I found plenty here, but they aren’t all that obvious or that detrimental to the plot. You’ll find errors in such trifles as chain of custody for evidence and the admissibility of certain types of testimony. If you’re a student of the law you’ll take note, as I did, and then hopefully move on. There’s too much compelling stuff here to allow yourself to miss out because of some rather common legal mistakes.
Ted Crawford (Hopkins) is an accomplished metallurgist. His specialty is finding that one hairline fracture that might have caused a tragedy, or perhaps prevent one, depending on when he discovers it. He has discovered that his wife is cheating on him. He leaves work early to spy on her during one of her rendezvous. Instead of confronting her he devises an elaborate scheme to kill her and, hopefully, get away scot free. He shoots her, but fails to kill her, placing her in an irretrievable coma instead. He then waits for the police to arrive. The detective on the scene is his wife’s lover, and it was all part of the plan. Lt. Rob Nunally (Burke) was unaware of who the victim was until his arrival. But for Crawford, it was all part of the plan. He elects to represent himself in court, going up against one of the best prosecutors in the business. The problem is that Willy Beachum (Gosling) already has one foot out of the door as a prosecutor and is days away from taking a rather cushy job at his girlfriend’s father’s firm. He carries a 97% conviction rate into the case, but his head’s not completely in this one, and he believes, incorrectly, that this one’s a slam dunk and won’t require much effort. Crawford ends up outsmarting him at each turn. Now Beachum faces the prospect of losing both jobs and his girl.
The story is a simple morality tale about arrogance. Both Beachum and Crawford succumb to the vice, and it draws them both dangerously close to their own individual falls. On the surface, this is one of those standard courtroom thrillers that we see everyday on television or in the movies. At times we think this could just be another episode of Law & Order. There’s good reason to suspect that, because director Gregory Hoblit cut his teeth on the television procedural. One of the many protégé’s of Steven Bochco, Hoblit began work on such shows as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue. That influences is quite clearly evident in the courtroom scenes of Fracture. But, it’s also easy to see that Hoblit has grown beyond whatever limitations he had in these television dramas. He’s learned to expand his focus, leaving behind the rather cramped confines of a square television screen, and learned to widen his depth with rather inspired staging and cinematography. He’s learned to play to his casts’ strengths, and that time in television has taught him to keep a tight pace, wasting not a second that isn’t necessary to tell the story. It’s a rather impressive job of directing here.
Hopkins has been sleepwalking through parts in recent years. Like the Beachum character played by Ryan Gosling, he appears to know that most of the time he can phone in a performance and still do adequate work. It wasn’t too long ago that he announced a retirement from films that lasted all of 14 minutes. He created a film of his own in which he acted, directed, wrote, and produced called Slipstream. It was an obvious analog to flipping Hollywood the bird. There’s a lot of evidence he has become more than a little disillusioned with his chosen career. With his involvement in the upcoming Universal remake of The Wolf Man, I was very much interested to see where Hopkins was right now. So, I approached this film looking for signs that Hopkins was indeed back. I found it. It appears that the man has found his muse once again and has taken more than a passing interest in his character. His performance here reminds us why he was so compelling in roles like Silence Of The Lambs, a role he could literally sink his teeth into. Here he is the main character and carries the film with not as much screen time as you would expect.
Hoblit’s one flaw in the plot is how much time he spends on Beachum’s private life. We soon get his situation and don’t need the holiday dinner get togethers and the redundant conversations about his career. Hoblit set up the scenario perfectly. He didn’t need to keep pounding us over the head with it. He has to start to trust that the audience gets it and move on. This was time spent away from Gosling or Burke and Hopkins squaring off, which is where all the magic in this film resides. The supporting cast is fine enough, but you want to have as much time on these leads as you possibly can. It’s the only thing that separates this from those other thousands of legal procedural dramas we’ve seen.
Fracture is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with a VC-1 codec. The bit rate often falls well below 15mbps. It’s not one of the better high definition images I’ve seen. It’s realistic enough and provides more detail than I suspect the DVD would provide. Still, I was a little disappointed in how average or below the presentation actually is. There are washed out scenes and some soft color reproduction throughout. On close-ups flesh tones are pretty reference. Black levels are adequate but really nothing more. This presentation could be better, and considering the Blu-ray format, should have been. Part of the problem is they saved a few cents by using a single-layer 25GB disc.
The Dolby TrueHD Audio track does a reasonably fine job. This is very much a talker, so dialog keeps this mix very much front and center. There are some nice subtle ambient moments, and the score offers a somewhat wider feel to the presentation.
Deleted and Extended Alternative Scenes: HD: There are 7 total with about a half hour running time. Most impressive is one of the two alternate endings which features a Hopkins meltdown. I rather liked that one a bit better than the one provided in the final cut of the film.
Hopkins shines here like he hasn’t in more than a decade. Hopefully he’s got that stick taken out of his behind and we can look forward to these kinds of characterizations more. It’s not that he’s any more dramatic; in fact, Hopkins works his best magic in rather subtle ways. Here he delivers his lines in a quiet manner that reveals so much more than we see on the surface. He works his eyes, which I find one of the most important aspects of some of the best out there. Without appearing very strong, Hopkins can deliver “a certain kind of strength, if you know what I mean”.