DVD Release Date:  October 16, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  April 27, 2007
Rating:  PG-13 (for violence, criminality, sensuality and language – all involving teens)
Genre:  Supernatural Thriller
Run Time:  97 min.
Director:  David S. Goyer
Actors:   Justin Chatwin, Margarita Levieva, Marcia Gay Harden, Chris Marquette, Callum Keith Rennie

In this adaptation of the Swedish novel and subsequent film Den Osynlige by Mats Wahl, Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds) plays Nick Powell, a successful high school senior in the Pacific Northwest.  Nick’s father died when he was a boy and he now has a tense relationship with Diane (Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River), his wealthy but aloof mother.  Nick dreams of becoming a writer and attending summer school in London.  He has, in fact, made plans to attend—with or without her approval.  In the meantime, he sells term papers to fellow students.

Self-effacing and a bit of a wimp, Nick’s best friend Pete (Chris Marquette, TV’s Joan of Arcadia) has gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd.  Pete is constantly in debt to Annie (Margarita Levieva), the school’s petty criminal.  When he can’t pay Annie back, she attacks him in the school bathroom.  Nick bails Pete out, but when she’s fingered for a heist, Nick ends up taking the blame.  He is left for dead after a brutal beating.

The next morning, Nick walks out of the woods and attends school, but no one can see or hear him.  He soon discovers that he is actually alive, caught somewhere between the living and the dead.  He somehow realizes that he will remain this way until they find his body, so he sets out to help the authorities do just that.

Together with screenwriters Mick Davis and Christine Roum, director David S. Goyer (2004’s Blade: Trinity) has, however unwittingly, created more of a CW television drama than the ghostly thriller it’s been promoted as.  Certainly, it has very little in common with The Sixth Sense, which the film’s jacket boldly insists.

The film promotes a positive message about the importance of parenting.  Despite their obvious differences, Nick and Annie have much in common.  Both have been neglected, and both feel unimportant and even invisible.  In fact, it’s only when Nick can actually see behind the scenes that he starts to feel alive again.

Unfortunately, the film’s basic premise is flawed.  The villain becomes the hero, with a new villain inserted at the end, along with a weird love story.  Her “accomplice” also has no reason to be involved—at least not one that’s credible.

A bigger problem is that the supernatural aspect—which is supposed to be the film’s hallmark—is inconsistent and confusing.  Late in the film, when Nick is apparently close to death, his “second body” starts falling asleep.  Why didn’t he ever do that in the first place, when he was brutally beaten?  Later, another character lands in the same state, but only for a few moments—yet his dying body remains in limbo.  Nick keeps yelling at people, but only one can actually hear him—and even then, it’s late in the film and only vaguely, without any lead-in as to why this suddenly starts happening.  Finally, the villain receives help—again, at the end of the film—from a strange form of magic that was never introduced or explained.  And it’s never really clear why Nick figures out that he’s alive (despite the use of an almost-dead bird).

Chatwin is a very good, engaging actor, but too much is given away from his point of view.  Nick is everywhere, without effort, so there is little in the way of revelation as we progress throughout the film.  When something is uncovered, it’s trite—yet treated as if hugely important.  Equally good is Harden, who won the “Best Supporting Actress” Oscar for Pollock, but her time onscreen is limited.  The film’s casting of the villain was a huge mistake, however.  Levieva is a former Russian Olympic gymnast who can’t weigh more than 100 pounds, yet we’re asked to believe that she can brutalize both Nick and Pete, order around two male henchmen and terrify her late 20-something ex-con boyfriend (Alex O’Loughlin).  Also, after she’s mortally injured, her wounds barely even cause her to wince. 

With its trendy pop tunes, this is a movie for and about teenagers, despite the startling level of violence, bizarre spiritual message (there is “life after death,” but only between life and death) and lack of role models or even hope, for that matter.  Teenage girls kick butt.  You can hear and see what people are saying about you, behind your back.  You die, but you don’t die.  You’re injured, but it doesn’t matter.  And you can fall in love with your killer … just because she has pretty hair.  

Talk about a romanticized teenage fantasy—albeit one that I won’t ever let my kids watch.

DVD EXTRAS:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Music Videos:  30 Seconds to Mars (“The Kill”) and Sparta (“Taking Back Control”)
  • Feature Audio Commentary with director David S. Goyer and writer Christine Roum
  • Feature Audio Commentary with writer Mick Davis

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Teenage characters appear to be trafficking in drugs but may only be selling stolen goods instead.  Wine in one scene.  In two separate scenes, characters try and kill themselves with prescription drugs and alcohol.
  • Language/Profanity:  Mild to moderate.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Some sensuality between teenage characters.  A teenager appears to be spending the night and having sex with an older man, although this is never seen.
  • Violence:  Strong.  Characters threaten the lives of others and are brutally beaten throughout film.  One is hit with a car on the road.  Another is run over by a car and slams into the windshield.  A car is stolen.  A jewelry store is robbed.  Some shooting and many scenes where guns are used to threaten lives.  A teenage character commits suicide with a shotgun (offscreen) but in both cases, the scene is not “real.”  Various car chases with police.  Characters shoot one another; one dies, the other suffers a bloody, mortal wound.