Directed by Nick Hamm
Produced by Marc Butan, Sean O'Keefe & Cathy Schulman
Written by Mark Bomback
Director of Photograpy Kramer Morgenthau
Music by Brian Tyler
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert Deniro & Camron Bright
2004/102 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Lions Gate Home Entertainment DVD
How many times have you finished a movie and said, "Wow! They didn't know how to end that!" In some ways, the conclusion to a film can be the most important part because, to put it simply, it's the last thing that the audience sees and often the aspect that they remember most. Just think of all of the classic films which are remembered for their great endings (insert your own list here), or maybe a mediocre film which was saved by a memorable finale. Apparently Hollywood is well aware of the importance of the finish, as evidenced by the alternate endings that we see on DVDs, implying that they are struggling to get the ending correct. The GODSEND DVD has a whopping 4 alternate endings (which may be a record), exemplifying this idea, and creating what may be the ultimate "They didn't know how to end that!" movie.
As GODSEND opens, Paul and Jessie Duncan (Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) are celebrating the eighth birthday of their son Adam (Cameron Bright). But, their happiness is shattered the next day when Adam is killed in an accident. As they are arranging the funeral, Paul and Jessie are approached by a stranger named Dr. Richard Wells (Robert De Niro). Wells is a geneticist and ob/gyn who claims that he can clone Adam and give the Duncan's their child back. At first, Paul and Jessie are appalled by this idea, but as grief overtakes them, they decide to take Wells' up on his offer. To do so, they must move to Vermont, where Wells clinic (The Godsend Institute) is located. This isn't terribly hard, as Paul is a school teacher and Jessie is a photographer. Nine months later, a new version of Adam is born.
The story then leaps ahead 8 years, as the new Adam (who looks just like the old one) is celebrating his eighth birthday. Adam is a happy and well-adjusted child, who gets along well with his parents, his peers, and his "Uncle" Richard. However, following his birthday party, Adam begins to have horrific visions of a school on fire and feels that he is in contact with a boy named "Zachary". At first, Wells diagnoses the problem as "night terrors" and tells the Duncan's that they have nothing to worry about. But, then Adam's behavior begins to change, and at times, he will only answer to the name "Zachary". Also, Adam states that something bad is going to happen. Paul is convinced that Adam's genes have somehow retained memories of his previous life and he's having vision of the past. But, Wells states that this is impossible. As Adam gives more clues about "Zachary", Paul starts to investigate what may be a devastating truth.
GODSEND is a film which resembles a road-map -- there are many paths which it could have taken, and it continues to cross over these paths until it is ultimately lost. One thing is for sure, if you can accept the far-fetched premise of the film, one must admit that GODSEND sports an interesting plot. The problem is that it doesn't know what to do with it. From a purely standard Hollywood story-telling angle, there are two directions which GODSEND could have taken; it could have become a full-on OMEN-esque horror film where Adam becomes "evil" and begins to terrorize his parents and others, or the film could have taken a more philosophical path and focuses on the nature of existence and whether Adam was the real Adam or not -- similar to some of the themes in GHOST IN THE SHELL. (This is, of course, discounting any wild indie film plots that the film could have adopted.) But, GODSEND attempts to combine these two viewpoints and becomes a muddled mess. Adam's visions certainly have a STIR OF ECHOES-like eeriness to them, but they don't add up to anything truly scary -- mostly because the audience doesn't know what's going on. Once the big twist is revealed (which I admit, I should have seen coming), the film has probably lost most audience members. And even if you do get caught up in the story, don't stop and think about what's going on, or what has triggered Adam's visions, because you'll realize that the movie doesn't make any sense. And, as noted above, the movie doesn't know how to end, and coda is quite disappointing.
While GODSEND's story is hard to swallow and follow, the movie isn't a complete loss. Director Nick Hamm (THE HOLE) could be accused of lifting the look of the film from many other movies, but he does a good job of using light and dark to help tell the story. The three main actors are good, especially Kinnear and De Niro. It's great to see De Niro in a genre picture, although his character doesn't fall very far from some others that he's played. Cameron Bright, who plays Adam, is OK, but his awkward performance adds further ambiguity to some of the scenes. GODSEND is a promising film which simply can't deliver the good. But, if you can get past the science-fiction premise, then it's worth a rental.
Lions Gate Home Entertainment gives birth to GODSEND on DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, with the picture showing very little grain. As mentioned above, the film makes great use of light and dark, and they both look fine on this DVD. The daytime scenes, which all look somewhat grey, are fine, and the action is always visible in the dark scenes, and the black tones look fantastic. Artifacting is kept to a minimum, as is edge-enhancement. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 track has to be one of the most unbalanced tracks that I've heard recently. The dynamic range is incredible out-of-whack and I found myself constantly reaching for the remote, as the dialogue is very soft, while the music and sound effects are incredibly loud. Those loud sound effects and music do create some very nice surround sound and subwoofer effects, but it's hard to enjoy them when you can't hear the dialogue in the next scene.
The GODSEND DVD contains a few extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Nick Hamm and director of photography Kramer Morgenthau (who joins Hamm about 1/3 of the way into the film). This is a good commentary in the sense that Hamm is very honest about the film, especially noting the fact that there were many endings to choose from. This duo does a fine job of explaining the technical aspects of the shoot, while discussing locations and the actors. Once again, the DVD contains 4 alternate endings, three of which take the finale into totally different directions. These endings can be watched with or without commentary by Hamm and Morgenthau, who, once again, give honest comments about which endings they like and which ones don't work. The only other extra on the disc is a series of storyboards.
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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©