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“Think of yourself,” says David Strathairn’s DA Joe Lobruto. To which Willie Beachum replies, “I’ve done enough of that.” It is a great exchange towards the end of the film that expresses beautifully the mind set of this young hotshot attorney, thinking he could sleepwalk through his last case in the public sector before jumping ship to the lucrative private one. Ryan Gosling is the kind of actor that can pull off the confidence of a man on top of the world, while also the haunted one that realizes the dire consequences of his actions, bringing that moral core back out, the one that got him into the business in the first place. Fracture is a film that examines the fall from grace of intellectuals who believe they are above the law. Between Gosling’s Beachum’s careless thinking that he could watch a case implode and just walk away and Anthony Hopkins’ Ted Crawford, the man on trial for murdering his wife, thinking he’s crafted the perfect crime, we as an audience see what hubris is and how humbling defeat can be. The only difference is that one of these men has a chance to redeem himself—it’s just a matter of whether he will.

The script utilized by director Gregory Hoblit, (the man behind a favorite of mine, Fallen), brings him back to the courtroom, a locale that seems to suit him well. His attachment to “L.A. Law” has reaped some Emmy awards and a couple of his previous films include Hart’s War and the taut gem Primal Fear, so courtroom drama is definitely a strength. Fracture’s screenplay thinks it’s more clever than it is, but the writing and strong dialogue help alleviate that problem by engrossing you in the tale, cloaking its true twists longer than should perhaps be the case. His direction, on-the-other-hand, is on its game, garnering two great performances from both Gosling and Hopkins, utilizing a supporting cast with some big talent well, (although I do have to agree with the criticism I remember hearing when the film came out concerning Rosamund Pike—she is beautiful and a good actress, but did she really have to be American with that horrid accent?), and some nice visual flourishes. The murder scene at the center of everything is beautifully shot and blocked, using reflections any chance it can: loved the frame of Hopkins and Embeth Davidtz looking at each other, one clear and the other behind glass, enjoyed the glimpse of Hopkins in the pool of blood on the floor, and thought the reflection of the credits in the glass marbles shooting through the cool spiral contraption was a nice touch.

After those moments of artistic flair, though, the film settles into a standard courtroom drama, heavy on acting and expression, both facial and body language. Hopkins is playing a game, looking to get under the skin of everyone involved with the case to deflect the truth and ruin the lives of those who hurt him. His constant provoking of Gosling is a delight as he does his best to distract him, anger him, and allow him to take himself out of the case. Seeing this young kid show up at his arraignment in a tuxedo couldn’t have been more perfect; here was a guy with the proverbial one foot out the door, here is a guy already so distracted that he won’t have to work too hard, just a little push should be all that’s necessary. The courtroom does become a bit of a circus with revelations being brought to light at inopportune times, but that just adds to the show being put on. The bigger it is, the louder and more boisterous it becomes, only widens Hopkins’ smile, accompanying it with that subtle little wink saying, “thanks for playing”.

There are conveniences for sure, especially Pike’s boss/love interest, serving only as a way to keep the MacGuffin that is Gosling’s awaiting job at Wooten Sims as well as a connection to her father, one that helps amp the tension of a scene crucial to the outcome, yet who’s appearance is very brief. But, truthfully, aren’t all films convenient to a point? The real success of a script comes from the ability to make those instances seem real and necessary. Life is a sequence of accidents and coincidences that build on each other to propel us forward into the future. The strength of the writing plugs some plotholes and allows the audience to go with the flow and believe that this aeronautical engineer had it all planned out to be foolproof. And both our leads are just plain fun to watch, one becoming more and more confident as the other falls deeper and deeper into frustration.

I use the quote I do for the title of this review because it is an appropriate truth that comes out when Davidtz’s character asks Hopkins if being so smart makes him feel powerful. His reply of, “no, helpless actually,” couldn’t be more true. The knowledge that those you deal with can’t understand concepts so simple to yourself is frustrating; the inability to just speak shorthand and be understood leaves one helpless because one can only go at the speed of the slowest person in the equation. However, on the flipside to that, when you are the only one included in the problem, your intellect becomes power because your speed is faster than those on the other end. Hopkins has but one opponent able to bring him down, yet Gosling’s drive and need to win is assumed to be too much to make him matter. The question becomes whether greed or justice propels that drive and, if provoked, whether the sleeping beast could be awakened out of pride and moral fortitude. A lawyer with morals you ask? That never happens … does it?

Fracture 7/10

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photography:
[1] Ryan Gosling stars as “Willy Beachum” in New Line Cinema’s release of Greg Hoblit’s FRACTURE. Photo Credit: ©2007 Sam Emerson/New Line Cinema
[2] Anthony Hopkins stars as “Ted Crawford” in New Line Cinema’s release of Greg Hoblit’s FRACTURE.

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