Director: Lee Tamahori
It's a classic case of one wrong twist spoiling a great show. Along Came The Spider is the kind of movie one would go to with a thinking friend. It starts with a cliché—a wise cop (Morgan Freeman) loses his partner and then spends months brooding over the tragedy. It then develops into an extraordinary plot—a trusted school-teacher kidnaps a senator's daughter and Freeman, who's not involved in the case, gets a call and the kidnapper leaves clues, as part, apparently, of a convoluted game. Freeman cracks the codes to discover a criminal whose motive is not money or thrills, but an intellectual recognition of his talents.
Monica Potter, failed secret service agent, joins Freeman in the hunt. The mindgame leads to the possibility of another startling kidnap. Freeman finally gets a more conventional call—a ransom demand. Suspicious about the sudden turn in the kidnapper's mind, he keeps the ransom date. His doubts, however, are confirmed when the criminal turns up at his door with a harassed, defeated look—it turns out that he was not the one who made the ransom demand. Someone else re-kidnapped the girl and impersonated him.
Director Lee Tamahori maintains the kind of quiet, edgy pace required for an intellectual thriller till this point. Freeman brings a sober steeliness to his role. The victim's profile, as well as the setting of her school from where she gets picked up, are all designed to substantiate and accentuate the workings of the scholarly mystery. There is seldom a moment which distracts from the ongoing dodgy sport. Jerry Goldsmith's background score also brings back the almost-lost tradition of the unobtrusive music highlighting more the attitude of the theme. Then the film suddenly becomes predictable—while seeming to throw an entirely unexpected loop. The 'preciseness' with which this happens, and the way the film's mood changes in minutes as the identity of the 'stalkers who stalked the stalker' comes out, creates a shock of its own. The cutting edge goes for a six, replaced by the banal monotony of a Hollywood B. This is one movie which you wish was longer. The final revelations needed time to register—since the thrill lay in the mindgame, the end surprise ought to have emerged as part of another long-drawn duel. Films like Chinatown, which pioneered the intellectual thriller, knew how to sustain the unusual—they never made the cardinal mistake of inserting the cloak & dagger stuff at the wrong point. As witnessed in other movies like Proof of Life, Hollywood seems to be falling in the rut of forcing safe endings on complex story lines.