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original title: Conspiracy Theory
duration: 2h 15min
tags: Jerry Fletcher sees conspiracies everywhere. One has turned out to be true. Now his enemies want him dead. And she's the only one he can trust.
keywords: conspiracy, fbi, bitingsomeone'snose, hospital, escape, apartment, referencetothegratefuldead, referencetooliverstone, binoculars, treadmill, manwearingglasses, laundrychute, referencetofrankserpico,
The cartoon comparison seems valid when you consider the outrageous elements in Brian ("Assassins") Helgeland'S murky script, along with Gibson's self-depreciating humor. Jerry's cluttered apartment resembles Bug's hutch, and this cabbie has an escape hatch that Bugs would truly envy. Jerry loves to play pranks and he pulls one in the tradition of "American Graffiti on the spies who are supposed to track him. At other times, Jerry outsmarts himself like Bug's often does and gets caught. Stewart's first encounter with Jerry is straight out of "A Clockwork Orange." Before the interrogation ends, Jerry has bitten Dr. Jonas's nose and is careening about in a wheelchair screaming hilariously at the top of his voice. Gibson's Jerry proves as much a Houdini as Bugs is in his escapades with Elmer.
As written by Helgeland, "Conspiracy Theory" is hard to follow because he throws out enough red herrings to pickle the plot. During the opening credits, we get to watch Jerry blitz his passengers with his crack pot conjectures. For example, he believes the metal pins in new hundred dollar bills are really tracking devices. He complains, too, that Benjamin Franklin on the new bills resembles the love child of Rosie O'Donnell and Fred Mertz, ("I Love Lucy's" next door neighbor). Or that the fluoride in the water does not promote our dental health but is rather to break down our mental health. Jerry publishes a conspiracy theory newsletter, but only five people subscribe to it. "The good conspiracy is an unprovable one," he tells Julia Roberts. Jerry scans the daily newspapers for any trace of a cover-up. Early in the film, Jerry is convinced NASA is going to kill the president, so he visits Federal attorney Alice Sutton (Roberts) to warn her about the plot. At first, Sutton thinks Jerry is a polite wacko, until she starts to see some of his warning signs.
Enter Dr. Jonas (Patrick Stewart), an urbane, bespectacled Harvard shrink who desperately wants to lay his hands on Jerry. Stewart plays Dr. Jonas with a Borg in his eye. Stewart's commanding presence lends credence to his villainy. Jerry, it seems, participated as a Jonas experiment in mind control program along the lines of the 1960's paranoid thriller "The Manchurian Candidate" where the Chinese brainwashed U.S. troops and turned them into assassins. Jonas tried to make Jerry into a killer, but his efforts proved futile. Somehow, somebody else grabbed Stewart's subjects, and he has been trying to catch Jerry since to learn who stole his technology. Meanwhile, another super secret agency represented by Hatcher (Cylk Cozart) has been keeping tabs on Jerry to capture Dr. Jonas. In the middle stands federal prosecutor Alice Sutton who has just been told to stop investigating the murder of his father a federal judge. Although she reluctantly believes Jerry initially, later she comes to hate and fear him.
Director Richard Donner and Helgeland are careful to present Jerry as a mad as a March hare hero. Meanwhile, they construct Alice Sutton as the paragon of intelligence and sanity. The character that Julia Roberts plays is indispensable. She proves Jerry is paranoid, but she realizes eventually that his paranoia is justified. "Conspiracy Theory" is really two stories woven into one. Jerry Fletcher searches as much for his own sanity as Alice Sutton does the murderers of his father. That's the other plot. Alice Sutton's father, a federal judge, has been murdered and she refuses to give up the investigation. Integrating these two apparently unrelated plots together into a smooth, unobtrusive way forces scenarist Helgeland and director Donner to add about a half-hour's worth of story to the film.
Since the filmmakers dump all this convoluted narrative onto you with as little exposition as possible, you may find "Conspiracy Theory" more than a little overwhelming. "Conspiracy Theory" struggles to be "North by Northwest" with a sprinkling of "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." Actress Julia Roberts has more to do than just stand around and look like a pretty woman in "Conspiracy Theory." As a hard nosed Federal prosecutor, she gets to shoot guns, ride horses, and talk her way out of tight-spots with the FBI. Gibson and she develop real chemistry when they go on the run. While Jerry gets to play hero in the first part of the film, Alice Sutton gets to dominate the heroics in the second half. Ultimately, all it boils down to is Mel Gibson. He gets to play a resourceful hero and a sympathetic victim. We are rooting for him the entire time, because there is no way Mel Gibson can be a crook. As charismatic as Gibson is as Jerry Fletcher, you cannot mistake his insouciant wit as anything other than a Bugs Bunny gesture. Now, if Mel had only uttered: "What's Up, Doc?" Quite a very good film. It is a thriller and the main character looks and sounds psychotic at least, if not schizophrenic. He definitely speaks of some kind of persecution and he lives right at the heart of a conspiracy and we discover very fast he is the one who is trying to undo it. The film becomes very complex little by little and we are confronted to various security agencies fighting one against the others to capture that man and the main names are CIA and FBI. What makes the film even more complex is that the man is in love, and we know that from the very first moment he is tom-peeping onto her, with the woman who works for the Justice Department, third official security force in the picture. The point is to understand why these people are after him and why he is after the Justice Department to which he wants to speak. What is the secret in that man's head and mind? The film is a perfect thriller because of the action but also because that action is not for itself, for the sake of itself, for its own sake. That action is treacherous because we do not know whether we have to support those official security services or the woman who is kind of an innocent witness trapped in the middle of a mud pile or the man who seems to be justified in a way to run away because of the violence the security services put on the table. The end will be tricky in many ways but the film will remain one more film on the danger of the industrial military complex and the divided loyalties of the security services in such situations. Some of them are after all maybe not so bad. Maybe we can sleep in full peace and in one piece, trusting the faithfulness of some security agents who will reprieve the bad reputation of their agencies.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Cr辿teil, CEGID With a plot that thickens like congealed stew, this movie about a harmless nutbar, an attorney and a cabal can leave you lost in banality.
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