Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Bojana Novakovic, Danny Huston, Shawn Roberts
Plot: Thomas Craven (Gibson) is launched into a bitter hunt to catch his daughter’s killer that leads him into a dangerous conspiracy.
Mel Gibson. A Conspiracy Theory. Hang on, have we been here before? Thankfully, ‘Edge of Darkness’ is a little more satisfying than that run-of-the-mill thriller.
We are introduced to Mel Gibson’s Boston Detective, who is greeting his daughter at the train station. The first five minute plays out with these two characters, before the daughter is quickly, and brutally (seriously, it might be a predictable start, but it still shocks), murdered. Craven is launched into an investigation, assuming that the killer was after him. However, after a meeting with his daughter’s secret boyfriend, he learns that she may have stumbled on a conspiracy theory that some important people want covered up.
If you want a reason to watch this film right off the bat: Mel Gibson. This is his first lead role since 2002’s ‘Signs’ and it is a true return to form. Most of the performance is done through his eyes, two shining pools of constant sadness at the loss of his daughter. I am glad both Gibson and Campbell steered away from throwing a Bruce Willis-esque action figure into the middle of this political mystery, as most of Gibson’s character keeps the film grounded. This is a slow-burning film, a reason it didn’t do as well as it deserved, but Gibson is hardly a pain to spend this time with. His best scenes are when the death of his daughter hits him and his voice cracks, while pleading for information. This film, not only gives you a tense and interesting thriller, but it has a big heart to go with it.
It’s a shame that some of the other characters don’t really match up to Gibson. Don’t get me wrong, Ray Winstone and Danny Huston are great characters here, but Campbell keeps them in the shadows for so long, that when the movie ends, you feel that you still never really know their motives or background. Winstone’s character is an interesting one, but his heroic final scene feels a little odd, rather than triumphant, as we are still unsure what side he is working for. As it stands, this film ends up feeling like it has fallen a little shorter than it could have done.
As a conspiracy film, it is really good. When it hits the final third, you have your heart in your mouth for no reason whatsoever. Campbell has already killed off several characters suddenly and brutally, causing us to jump in our seats, so we are always expecting the next death to be around the corner. There is one scene where Gibson is talking to his cop friend and he is standing a little too close to the window for my liking. I was half expecting Campbell to wrap up the movie a little early with a sudden sniper shot. On the downside, sometimes the sudden deaths feel a little far-fetched. There is one hit-and-run scene that will stretch credibility.
I would have liked this film to go that little beat further. I am unsure exactly why I found the ending short. There is a good ending. The bad guys get what’s coming to them. There is a grizzly shoot-out for the action fans who have stuck out the slow story for some killing. And the emotion hits the high notes. But the actual conspiracy is not really ever explained. Part of me just felt that the ending could have had a little more. It is almost as though Campbell got so used to hiding the information in the shadows that he forgot to throw the light on the whole affair by the end of the film. As it stands, we have a pretty decent thriller, but the rough edges stop it from being anything too memorable.
Final verdict: Come for the conspiracy, stay for Mel Gibson. His finest performance in a long time.