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Don't Say a Word

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
Don't Say a Word
from Film Forum, 10/4/01

Don't Say a Word stars Michael Douglas as psychiatrist Nathan Conrad. Nathan tries to spend Thanksgiving with his injured, bedridden wife and his daughter, but is urgently called away to see a patient. This deeply disturbed, terrified woman might be faking her hysteria out of a need to protect herself. But it's up to Nathan to pry information from her broken mind—an especially urgent task after criminals who want the information kidnap his daughter.

Dick Rolfe at Dove compares the film to a recent Mel Gibson thriller: "The suspense is just as intense as in Ransom." He adds, "The acting is also very good."

Movieguide's critic is also impressed, calling it "a taut, well-directed and well-written thriller with a strong moral worldview and a strong, compassionate hero."

But the U.S. Catholic Conference is not as easily won over: "Though the frantic pace … heightens suspense, narrative inconsistencies and shaky characterizations produce a frustrating package."

Paul Bicking at Preview doesn't mind the flaws: "This tense action-thriller may be predictable, but mystery fans will enjoy the unfolding tale." He does observe, however, that our hero "lies to police, breaks laws and resorts to violence as well. With graphic violence and dialogue laced with obscenities … Don't Say a Word can't be recommended."

Michael Elliott applauds "an accomplished cast and crew. … Thanks to their abilities, we are nicely distracted from dwelling upon the plot inconsistencies during the course of the action. It is as we reflect back upon the film that they become all too readily apparent. Still, Don't Say a Word pushes many of the right buttons for audiences seeking an uncomplicated traditional thriller."

Moviegoers made Don't Say a Word the week's top box office hit. This happened in spite of lukewarm reviews from the mainstream press. Roger Ebert for example, admits that the director "shows a poetic visual touch," but concludes, "The movie as a whole looks and occasionally plays better than it is." He criticizes the ending, in which several different implausible, outrageous things are happening at once: "There is a difference between racing through a thriller and wallowing in it."