ALONG CAME A SPIDER
US, 2001, 104 minutes, Colour.
Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Michael Moriarty, Penelope Anne Miller, Dylan Baker.
Directed by Lee Tamahori.
James Patterson writes absorbing best-sellers. He has also created a strong character, a police psychologist, Alex Cross, who appeared in the form of Morgan Freeman in the murder mystery, Kiss the Girls, in 1998. Alex Cross returns in what was, perhaps, Patterson's best book. Naturally, it has to be reduced for just under two hours running time. And simplified.
What we have is a story of an abduction from a school by an arrogantly intellectual crazy (played by the always sinister-looking Michael Wincott), the cat and mouse chase by the FBI, the police and the help of the security officer at the school (Monica Potter). The film keeps its rapid pace. Morgan Freeman brings an intense dignity to Cross and his quest for the kidnapper. It all comes together quite satisfactorily. (A warning to readers of the novel: the first half keeps to the spirit of the novel, so does the second except for its treatment of the kidnapper which will disappoint readers.)
1. The popularity of Alex Cross as a forensic detective? His Washington background? The books, the film version of Kiss the Girls? This film as a sequel? The adaptation of the novel key elements (but killing off the central villain)?
2. The Washington locations, the regions outside Washington, the rivers and lakes, the countryside? The musical score?
3. The title, the reference to Gary Soneji, spider and venomous, preying on Megan? His web, entangling others?
4. The opening with Alex Cross, the special case, the double agent, the car, the crash, her death and Alex not able to save her? The effect on him personally, with his friends, with his girlfriend, family? His motivation for the next case?
5. The complications of the case: the wealthy schoolchildren, the senator and his wife, the pressure on security guards, on the FBI, on forensic detectives? The following of the clues for Soneji? The twist in the case with Soneji's death, the focus on the security guards, the understanding that Jezzie was involved, the final confrontation between Jezzie and Alex? The rescue of Megan?
6. The abduction situation: the focus on Gary Soneji, his personality, insane, self importance, the link with the Lindbergh abduction? His background, family, his own life, a loner, secretive? The range of his disguises? In class, computers, history, the exercise with the children, his pressurising the children? The scheme for the abduction, his ability in carrying it out, his escape? Holding Megan, his treatment of her, the issue of the diamonds, the train rendezvous, his own decisions, not aware of the security guards and their plan? His vanity, wanting to confront Cross, outwit him? The hiding of Megan? The confrontation with Cross, his death? His not knowing about the ransom?
7. Alex Cross, his abilities with people, the senator and his wife, working with Jezzie, discussing things with her, attracted to her? Following the case, the details, the rendezvous, the train? The killing of Soneji?
8. Jezzie and her work with security, her accomplice? Audiences not knowing her involvement, sympathy towards her, her role with the investigation, staying with Alex, the friendship, the attraction? Her treatment of Megan? The revelation of her part in the plot? Her accomplice, looking at the diamonds, killing him? Her treatment of Megan, her brutality? Trying to bluff Alex, her death?
9. Megan, at school, her parents, the class, the abduction? The effect on her, her shrewdness, being kept alone? The treatment by Soneji and the threats? The accomplice and his treatment of Megan? Her trusting Jezzie? Jezzie arriving,
knocking, her being alone, Megan with the fork, hiding? Rescued by Alex?
10. Her parents, the senator, his influence, his exasperation, throwing his weight around? The wife and her concern, support of Alex? The FBI, failures to find Megan, the final restoration of Megan?
11. The FBI, Mac, his working with Alex, the decisions, the shooting, not knowing where Megan was, collaborating in the final investigation?
12. An enjoyable thriller, mystery, investigation, twists? The personality of Alex Cross giving a depth to the film?