The opening didn't help with a droning monologue of a telephone conversation that was making me think of the overacted voice performances of Cage that I really don't like, I thought it was going nowhere and I was in for more of the same.
So imagine my surprise to find the standard Cage performance disappeared immediately and Schumacher delivered a film to remind us of his strengths. With Trespass he's delivered a pretty good thriller.
The first thing I noticed about the film was that opening monologue and it had the usual Nicolas Cage seeming to over emphasise the wrong words and deliver the inflections with a tone a step above everything that was needed, as I feel about so many performances of Cage's they're just that little bit over the top. However straight after this scene, as he arrives at the house, his performance begins to calm down and it's not long before I had totally forgotten about that and taken to his character rather than the actor. His performance turns out to actually be really good with one scene where he really turns it up a notch and totally surprised me.
It's early on in the story of the home invasion when he's just coming to grips with what has been happening. So far he's scared to death and just doing what the masked figures want him to do, but there comes a point when he begins to realise what they want, how determined they are, and what this potentially means for his family. He fights the fear and puts on his mask of the hustling diamond trader, beginning to bargain with the men pointing guns at them. Watching the transformation from fear to expert negotiator, bustling with nervous energy, it's exciting to watch and really does reinstate my faith with the man as an actor, a real actor. His performance keeps around that level through the rest of the film and I never felt he returned to the over acting Cage.
Nicole Kidman does have a good role to play on paper but it didn't really seem as though she had a huge amount to do. There's definitely more to her character than the usual female/wife role in these kind of films. She's not just playing the token wife as her character has a real involvement in the plot and is at the core of some of the twists of the story, but I just didn't think she ended up with that much to do as all she seems to be doing is reacting. Still, it may not be the usual leading role that an actress of her stature is used to playing, but at the same time she does it really well and adds some great class to the film. My mind keeps popping back to the moments where we see her having prepared dinner and trying to persuade her husband to stay rather than go out, these scenes leave a lot unsaid between the two and they both play a lot of the story in the undercurrent of the scene, behind the words and in the expressions and actions.
Ben Mendelsohn is good in his role and plays it well, giving a hint of his character from Animal Kingdom (Filmstalker Review) but keeping it filled with uncertainty. Here his character is far less confident and lacking a good deal of self-belief, and instead is second guessing himself, struggling to work out what to do next in the plan, and both scared of one of his fellow burglars and scared for another. His character is less subtle but he does give a good performance that manages to be the focus of several threads in the story, conflicted and pulled in several directions and managing to retain a sense of humanity that keeps us interested in his character without him becoming a straight up monster.
Cam Gigandet also gives a capable performance, although his character doesn't really come to life until later on. He has his flaws earlier though when he's struggling with the storyline about his pills. It all feels a little unsubtle and clumsily handled from the questions and comments about them from his brother, to his troubled and difficult expression to show just how much he's struggling with it all. His character does feel a little flat and his story a little ham-fisted but he still does deliver some strong moments for the overall story.
One of the strongest aspects of the film is the way that it keeps you uncertain about events, even ones that you might be sure of in other Hollywood films. I love thrillers, and as a result I watch so many of them it becomes rather easy to see the predictable beats and phrases of them, especially the standard ones from Hollywood. I really expected this to be the case here and I would pick up what was going to be happening by what the camera was showing us and the appearance of characters, etc. However this was rather different, the writers, director and editor have managed to ensure that things don't quite follow the predictable routes, the usual signs aren't all there, and while it's not a complete shock and surprise for each turn, there are some pleasantly received ones and there's enough to cloud what comes next, even when it is one of these known routes.
There is a scene where we see an event happen early on with ominous pointers to something happening later, and then later on we return to the scene with all the same pointers playing again and the thrilling music pumped up to the max, usually you'd be sitting there knowing what is about to come and totally ready for it, however it waits just that bit longer than you'd think and with all the uncertain moments that have come before you're not entirely sure it's going to happen. I don't know if it's planned, but that's how it appears, and it happens a few times throughout the film.
The uncertainty is a good thing and helps build the strength of the turns and misdirections in the thriller, managing to hide certain moments from the audience and turning in unexpected directions. This felt even more surprising to me since it is a Joel Schumacher film.
Yet as much as I've written that up as a strong thriller, and as I mentioned earlier, the twists and turns aren't shocks and surprises, there are a few surprises but it doesn't really shock you and make you gasp. This film isn't about huge Seven type shocks though, for often a thriller is about smaller building blocks that keep piling up throughout, and that's what this film does. Layering on the tension and delivering those unsighted turns.
Trespass is a little bit of a surprise, it's a good film from Joel Schumacher and a good performance from Nicolas Cage, aren't those all the surprises you need? Well there's more, this is a pretty good thriller that does do a decent job of misdirection and pulling out a few unexpected moments. It builds tension well and holds you, and the supporting cast are strong too. It isn't the best of thrillers and there are still some Hollywood moments, but it was a lot better than I expected and definitely entertained.