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K-PAX -Review
Prot is so normal , he makes all of us seem insane.

Director - Ian Softely
Screenplay Charles Leavitt
Original Novel Gene Brewer
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Alfre Woodard, Mary McCormak, Saul Williams

Take one strange person who claims to be an alien and lock him up.

Is he for real, or just an above average nutcase - a savant?

In most science fiction movies - especially American science fiction movies, the moment someone mentions they are an alien they usually shoot him or her. There are exceptions, but even ET was hunted by the FBI and 'the Alien police'. Whether it was Michael Rennie in a silver suit come to get us to 'live in peace with one another' or something slimy with bad breath, generally we like our aliens fried. It's just the way we are. Just look at Israel and Palestine for proof.

So when the Director of Backbeat, Hackers, and Wings of the Dove tackles the age old question of do we shoot 'em first or later, he chooses later. The method of killing is of course psychiatric care. In America, thanks to Sigmund Freud, the nation is obsessed with 'abnormal ' behaviour. Sadly most of those people seem to be either psychiatrists or leading members of the Bush Administration but no one has incarcerated them, as yet.

When Kevin Spacey suddenly arrives in Grand Central Station he is arrested for coming to the aid of a mugged woman and naturally locked up for the crime of claiming to be an alien and carrying no ID. (And the USA tries to claim it isn't a police-state.) Prot, for that is his name, is eventually transferred to the care of Dr Mark Powell at the Manhattan Psychiatric Institute (played with genuine concern and empathy by Jeff Bridges). At first Dr Powell is sceptical that Prot is an alien, but he appears to offer pretty convincing proof otherwise and piques the curiosity of some astronomers. (Lucky thing Prot chooses the one psychiatrist who has astronomer friends).

Prot is played with the usual Kevin Spacey enigmatic, phlegmatic style and after the excretable 'Pay It Forward', it is great to see Spacey in a role so perfect for his personality. (Actually Will Smith was originally down to play the part but luckily for us pulled out).

Spacey and Bridges compliment each other well. Belief versus non-belief. The script is tight, all the characters play well and the wedge between Bridges character and his neglected wife is sensitively played. The amusing element of the film is that the only people who believe Prot is really from the planet K-Pax are the patients and they, or course are mad. Prot, by his patient, compassionate and subtle presence manages to awaken these people from the catatonic state or self-obsessed fixation and gives them hope. (Something the endless medication is clearly failing to do).

Prot is so normal , he makes all of us seem insane. As Jeff Bridges Doctor Powell probes and tests and challenges, we are kept guessing. Is Prot really an alien? Can it be possibly true?

Iain Softley's direction is close and compulsive. The sound track (which is great and worth buying) really knits the text together and is skillfully woven between scenes. Softley understands music well from his experience with Backbeat and Hackers. On this film he worked from the very beginning with the composer and the film uses the music to move us along and read emotions, much the same way that Keislowski used to do in his films.

Do not read anything about the plot of this film, it will definitely spoil it for you, but do go and see this intelligent, tense and oddly very humane film. There are elements of 'The Fisher King' here and 'Twelve Monkeys' but it is on it's own in being an intelligent portrayal of an impossibility and the truth is er- out there. Spacey is very compelling, but Bridges gives a nicely controlled performance as well, divided as he is between disbelief and hope and a genuine desire to 'cure' this man of his delusions.

© Sam North April 2002

Highly Recommended.
Just Released in the UK. Available to rent or buy in the USA

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