Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Back when Mirage came out in the sixties, I assume it was the equivalent of what a popcorn movie is today. Then there wasn't really such thing as an action movie, so the next best thing to entertain mass audiences was the thriller. The wilder and hyperbolic the plot would have been like excess in action and mayhem. Since there was no Transformers back in the sixties, I suppose movies like Mirage were the next best thing. Gregory Peck plays Stillwell, an accountant who has suffered a strange case of amnesia in which he cannot remember the last two years of his life. Frightened and perplexed, he visits a psychiatrist, who dismisses his case before he even figures out what it actually is. Desperate, Stillwell hires a detective, played by Walter Matthau, to help solve his dilemma. Matthau's detective is an amateur sleuth trying to make it with his own agency. Stillwell is his first case, and it shows. Matthau is really wasted here. It's as if the filmmakers thought that just having a detective present was enough to make the movie more interesting. No need for him to knowledgeable, funny, or even useful. But the real problem here is Peck, who seems clueless as to how to handle Stillwell. Peck has a naturally calm demeanor, a quiet intensity and an air of extreme intelligence, which is why he was so good in To Kill a Mockingbird. But here, as in Hitchcock's Spellbound, he is incapable of playing a character on the edge because of that natural tendency to lay low, stay calm, and rationalize at all times. He's an extreme miscast, a selling point to make the poster look like the movie's worth seeing. As Mirage trudges along, Stillwell starts to be chased by mysterious villains with guns and cold faces. Stillwell is ever moving, obviously leading up to a major revelation. But the problem is that the film doesn't leave enough solid clues to make us interested. Instead it piles on all the answers in the final fifteen minutes, making the rest of the movie a pointless, aggravating bore. And as for those chases, clearly thrown in just to make the movie exciting, I was watching them and wishing desperately for a James Bond movie. This movie should have taken a lesson from Bond. A lesson on humor, action, and intrigue. Instead it stands dead and soulless. It's a Michael Bay film, the Transformers movie of the sixties.