Elizabeth (Brittany Murphy) is an enigma, a tormented and traumatised 18 year old permanently housed in a mental health facility under lock and key, due to her willingness to inflict pain upon those who try to analyse and assist her. Due to this proclivity for violence and reluctance to accept assistance, it seems Elizabeth will forever remain in custody, a prisoner of her own demons.
Dr Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas) is a child psychologist. He learns of Elizabeth’s reputation but asks to assess her anyway. Actually he has no choice, as his young daughter has been kidnapped and won’t be released until Conrad can learn vital information that apparently only exists in Elizabeth’s mind.
You wonder which muppets dealt with lil’ Liz previously, as within two minutes Conrad has her singing like a bird, yapping away cryptically. She might not be willing to spill the beans just yet, but the conversation flows between the pair, as a resentful peer of Conrad’s watches on, having failed dismally himself.
Like Instinct, another doctor / patient film that I watched recently, Don’t Say a Word insults the audience with almost instant breakthroughs that lead to revelations that aren’t nearly as astonishing as they want desperately to be.
To try to compensate for this DSaW throes lots of characters at the screen to distract you. Sean Bean plays the leader of the kidnappers, freshly released from a lengthy prison sentence. OK he is necessary, as without his kidnapping we don’t have a film. Famke Jannsen plays Conrad’s wife, laid up in the family home with a broken leg so that she can worry and fret in one convenient location. We don’t really need her but without her Nathan Conrad would need to do all of the emotional heavy lifting – so she stays.
But a running subplot featuring Detective Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito) and her ongoing investigations into missing women? There’s at least 15 minutes that could easily have been cut without losing anything important. It might also make the film leaner and basically better.
What could have been a pioneer in the Taken ‘give me back my daughter’ vengeance fests peters out predictably in a barrage of tedious ‘revelations’, each one more predictable than the last. Michael Douglas keeps a square jaw and a stern expression throughout – always a strength of his – but this is just another 90s thriller that wasted the opportunity to make a mark.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. You don’t have to say a word. But if you did it might be ‘meh’