An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            “Fracture” bristles with mystery, anticipation and surprise. Add to that a terrific script, a good premise and fine actors and you have a good old-fashioned thriller. You won’t think about your grocery list during this one.

            Consider how they set us up for this pleasure. Within a minute or so we are introduced to Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz), and her lover Lt. Nunally (Billy Burke). We meet Ted in his airline hangar office where his attention, and ours, is drawn repeatedly to several world class perpetual motion machines – balls rolling gently and forever over brass tubes in a design that we sense sprung from Ted’s imagination. When Ted strides purposefully to his sports car and roars off down the runway in a wave of noise that rivals that of a plane on takeoff, we know this is a man who not only cares obsessively about his surroundings but has probably designed most of them himself.

            He is streaking to the assignation site of his wife and her lover. This man definitely has a plan. Ted shoots his cheating wife in the head, takes steps one through three of his blueprint for revenge and then confesses to the investigating officer who turns out to be Lt. Nunally, his wife’s lover. Now that the complex premise has been handed to us so quickly, we realize the rest of the movie will be a theatrical process of resolution.

            The reason this unfolds so well is that an absorbing battle of wits is set up between Ted the confessor and Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), a cocksure winning prosecutor from the state prosecutor’s office. A compulsive verbal competition is propelled by the quick mind and enormous ego of each man. Since Ted and Willy are both loaded with personal eccentricities as adornments to their cleverness, we are absorbed thoroughly in their marvelous duel. Each is a match for the other.

            The only downside here is a sub-plot involving a fancy law firm in the process of luring Willie away for a ton of money and an affair with his new boss. The prolonged competition between Ted and Willie makes everything else irrelevant. The cast gives good support, but primarily as landscape for the battle.

            The story, which might have been a courtroom drama, steps into the court now and then, but unfolds mainly in the world of forensics – A master craftsman has designed and confessed to a perfect plan, but the able prosecutor must still find the evidence. Thrilled with his own plan, Anthony Hopkins’ Ted delivers his strategies with cool precision while he puffs up with pride in his own cleverness. Ryan Gosling gives Willie the equally cool assurance that he will best his opponent. The two arrogant men are fascinated with each other; and we are fascinated by them. They overflow with cocky mannerisms and inspired verbal weapons. How could you want a better evening at the movies?

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