|Written by Bill Warren|
|Friday, 01 June 2007|
Even though the big climax of “Entrapment” features our hero (Sean Connery) and heroine (Catherine Zeta-Jones) hanging by their fingertips from a splintering cable near the top of the twin towers of the (then) tallest building on Earth, the movie doesn’t really generate very much suspense. Director John Amiel’s style is too relaxed for that to happen, and we don’t have a strong emotional investment in the characters. Still, it looks good, and passes itself off reasonably successfully as the kind of movie it is intended to be. But it’s not memorable, and has few gotta-see-that-again moments, so unless you just have to have all of the films by either star (can’t imagine a John Amiel completist), you can safely pass on “Entrapment.”
The movie opens with an elaborate break-in at a Manhattan skyscraper; the thief is dressed ninja-style all in black, with a strange contraption over the face. You might be reminded of the nearly universal rule: if you can’t tell if a character is a man or a woman, it’s a woman, though here, we’re supposed to think the ingenious thief is Sean Connery. It’s a pretty good opening sequence, involving a rock-climber’s descender line and various high tech gadgets (including one that allows the thief to see sideways). The thief steals a Rembrandt (leaving a black-velvet Elvis painting in its place) and makes a smooth getaway.
Then we meet energetic Virginia Baker (Zeta-Jones), investigator for a prestigious insurance company, trying to persuade her boss Hector (Will Patton) that the thief is Robert MacDougal, or “Mac” (Connery), a brilliant art thief she’s been tracking for years. Partly because Hector has romantic feelings for Virginia—this is never convincing—she persuades him to send her to London to try to trap the very elusive Mac in a plan he’s sure to swallow.
In London, she tracks Mac for a while, as he commits a robbery or something (it’s never clear just what he’s doing in these scenes), but then he appears in her bedroom that night: he’s stolen all her clothes and the gun she keeps under her pillow. He’s cryptic, but does convince her to meet him the next morning. Since she claims she’s a thief herself and wants to team up with him on the theft of a valuable golden mask, he sets a test for her, which she passes. (Again, it’s unclear as to just what Mac wants out of this caper.)
He flies her off to his baronial castle in the Highlands of Scotland, on the shores of a loch. He agrees to help her in the theft of the mask, and meets with Thibadeaux (Ving Rhames), his supplier of swell gadgets. We, but not Virginia, learn that Mac is quite aware that she’s an insurance investigator who reports back to her boss periodically.
After a period of intense training involving maneuvering around and over laser beams, they head to a British museum (but not THE British Museum) where the mask in on display. Afterward, she says something to Mac that you don’t hear in many movies: “Come with me to Kuala Lumpur.” She has arranged for them to steal several billion (with a b, not an m) dollars from one of the towers of the world’s tallest building—on the eve of the new Millennium. The plot is vaguely tied into the then-feared Millennium Bug, or Y2K, as it was better known.
So off they go to Kuala Lumpur, and on to the finish of the movie which, as is usual with this kind of caper thriller, has several major twists, at least one of which is not readily guessable.
“Entrapment” wants to be as elegant and cool (in several senses of the word) as the best James Bond movies, as other great caper films like “Topkapi” or “Rififi.” But it doesn’t quite make it; the characters always seem remote, and relatively little sexual tension is generated between them. Connery was one of the movie’s producers, and fully aware that he’s nearly 40 years older than Zeta-Jones, he has the romantic elements soft-pedaled, but they’re there, and scandalized some of the more prudish reviewers and audience members.
But this reluctance to be romantic weakens the movie. The script by Ronald Bass and William Broyles is short on wisecracks; the characters are not well-developed, and sometimes even intrusive, such as Maury Chaykin’s gay, hedonistic art collector. There’s no good reason for him to even be in the movie, and it shows. We still see beautiful people in beautiful locations doing hair-raising stuff, as in that dangling-by-their-fingertips scene at the end. To a large degree, we don’t really care much about either character, or whether they end up together, or if their caper is successful. It’s pretty to watch, reasonably fun the first time through, but it’s not memorable.
Simply because of the kind of movie it is and where it is set, “Entrapment” looks especially good in the high definition video of this Blu-Ray disc. Much of the climax takes place at night, and several times city-scapes at night are prominently featured—those always look great in high definition. But the interior scenes are not especially enhanced by high definition, and there are a number of them. The sound is excellent; it’s in Lossless audio, and so is about as good as you can expect from a DVD currently. On the other hand, it’s not a movie in which sound figures prominently—after all, these are sneak thieves whose work requires them to be as quiet as possible.
The climax, with Mac and Virginia having to cross from one of those towers to the other, is suspense by rote—that is, it’s a classic cliff-hanging scene, but director Amiel doesn’t do much to raise the ante of the tension inherent in it. We know, of course, that neither of these leading characters is going to die, so suspense needs to come out of THEIR fears of dying—and Connery is just too suave to seem fearful.
Of course, this is also a fantasy view of thieves; Mac is just the latest revision of Raffles, the Gentleman Cracksman—the thief who specializes only in items of luxury value—paintings, gems, golden masks, the money of huge banks—and who doesn’t rip off regular working stiffs like those in the audience. We can almost endorse the theft of a Rembrandt, partly because it passes through the hands of a thief who can appreciate it. But “Entrapment” isn’t quite as escapist as, say, Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief,” and yet isn’t much more realistic than a Bond movie.
The commentary track by John Amiel, one of only two extras (the other a trailer), is only moderately interesting, and adds little to the movie. Still, he sounds intelligent and listening to him would probably be more entertaining than watching a fourth rerun of a “Friends” episode.
“Entrapment” is another of those movies that embody the great mystery of Blu-Ray/HDDVD releases: why THIS movie? It’s an okay film, but not any better than that; it’s not especially visually rich, and the Lossless sound isn’t essential. But why this and not that movie is released in high-definition video is a question that mere observers like all of us can answer.