Review: The Forgotten

Fun, but slightly forgettable itself.

By Chris Stewart
September 25, 2004

I remember my reaction when I first saw the trailer for The Forgotten in theaters. It seemed like just another suspense thriller involving memory. Julianne Moore runs and weeps and rages over the son people tell her she never had. It’s about that point that I started to tune out. Oh, Moore found a buddy. Fight buddy, fight! Whatever. Oh they caught someone and now they’re going to make him talk. Gee I wonder if she’ll find her kid? I mean, c’mon, I’ve seen this movie bef…holy shit! Did that guy just get sucked up into the sky?

With that, I decided that I might have to see the movie.

Between that first trailer and the movie’s release on Friday, I was disappointed to see that the movie marketing machine decided the audience needed to see more and more weird stuff. They haven’t given the film away, but by now I think you’ve got a pretty good idea what’s happening in the film. That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have a couple of good kicks to the shin for you, but that first, choking-on-popcorn reaction I had to the first trailer has had its edges filed off.

Wait. Maybe you haven’t seen the all the trailers. Well, stop reading this – I have no wish to frontload ideas into your head before you go see the movie. It’s a solid, if a bit average, thriller that will freak you out in parts. I’m in no hurry to see it again, but you’re welcome to. You can come back later and read on once you’ve seen it.

Right. So, if you HAVE seen the trailers, then you’ve seen not only the guy in the cabin get sucked into the sky, but you’ll likely have seen the shot of two falling figures from the top of a building, with one of them getting whisked off as well. You add in the first hapless suckee’s line, “They’re listening” and I think you’ll have a pretty good guess at what’s happening. This isn’t just a normal thriller, there’s something genuinely weird happening.

Julianne Moore plays Telly (a very, very odd women’s name) who is working through the loss of her little boy, Sam. Sam boarded a plane with a group of schoolmates and was never seen again – it was assumed the plane went down somewhere and that they’re all dead. Telly seems to be getting better – her psychiatrist, played by Gary Sinise, asks how long she spent in Sam’s old room this past week and she says she’s down to an hour a day.

Anthony Edwards is her patient husband, standing by Telly during very unstable, emotional moments. All this is at the beginning of the film and it takes a while to work through it, maybe longer than needed, but it does ground us in her version of reality. I say her reality because, again as we’ve seen in the trailers (stupid trailers), her world starts to conflict with everyone else’s. People who used to know her son don’t any longer, until it’s suggested that she never had a son, that’s she’s a little crazy. And if she doesn’t calm down, she’s going to have to have a chat with a couple of burly government agents. If you have no idea where this is going, you haven’t watched enough X-files.

On the lam, Telly finds allies in Ash (Dominic West) and Detective Pope (Alfre Woodard). Woodard’s part isn’t as deep as I would have liked. After watching Telly sob throughout the bulk of the film, you just know Pope will save the day, but you can’t count on things turning out as you’d expect in a thriller where people keep getting their minds zapped or getting sucked into the sky.

Everything comes down to Telly and the power of a mother’s love, which has a nicer resonance in this instance (as opposed to, say, the end of A.I.), but it’s still a triumph of will power ending, the kind we’ve seen all to often. How much this movie will surprise you depends on how much you’ve already seen of the film and how much of a geek you really are. Even if you’ve got a good idea what’s going on, the film does have its moments and while I can’t call it a great movie, it’s not a terrible movie. I leave it to you then to decide how and when you’ll check it out.