The Double Hourrecommended viewing

Stop and think it over
★★★★
☆☆
Released: 
2009
Director: 
Guiseppe Capotondi
Starring: 
Kseniya Rappoport, Fillippo Timi, Antonia Truppo, Gaetano Bruno
The Setup: 
A promising new romance is interrupted… and then twists, twists, twists.
Discussion: 

This one sounded interesting and was said to have high-end art heists, ghosts, secret identities, comas, and more twists than you can shake a stick at, which at least promised an entertaining time. It turned out to be quite good, in addition to being intriguing, sometimes scary and indeed full of twists, but the reason it stayed on my good side is that all the twists work, none of them are too outrageous, and as you look back, every element, not matter how crazy it sounds, fits perfectly together.

The problem is I can only tell you very little about the story before we veer into big-time spoilers.

So Sophie is a chambermaid at a hotel. She goes to a speed dating event, where she meets Guido, retired cop and current security guard. Their relationship develops nicely, each of them seeming realistically guarded and hurt in the past, as certain things that will become significant later happen, none of which I can reveal, but that you’ll be looking back on later. Then one day Guido invites Sophie out to his place of work, and well, that’s all I can tell you. Skip to past where it says “Spoilers end” and we’ll discuss the overall thing.

SPOILERS > > >
So this section is primarily for those who have SEEN the film, or who can take a few more spoilers without feeling betrayed. Sophie and Guido are jumped by robbers—turns out Guido is the security guard for a great house—and they pack up the contents of the house right quick. Then Guido is shot! A while later, Sophie is devastated. She starts being distracted and acting strange at work. She breaks an expensive bottle of perfume and we see and hear an older man be extremely belittling to her. Her co-worker says her new boyfriend is a security guard and watches her on camera. Then Sophie sees GUIDO watching her from a security camera screen. She later breaks in, looks at the tape, and he’s not there.

Then later she’s at home and the light goes out. Then she gets her flashlight, hears Guido speak her name, and we catch a glimpse of him in the flashlight beam! It was a good scare moment. Meanwhile, Guido’s police friend if coming around, asking questions, saying it sure was coincidence that the robbers just HAPPENED to show up the one day Sophie was there, which was why Guido left the alarm off. Sophie’s friend kills herself exactly like a hotel guest did before the accident. Guido calls on the phone. Around this time you’re thinking that this is some sort of ghost story.

Then this creepy manager from the hotel insists on giving Sophie a ride home, offering her a drink from his flask. Then they’re driving somewhere she doesn’t recognize, she’s getting woozy… she’s getting buried alive… and…

HARDCORE SPOILERS NOW > > >
She wakes from her coma! And Guido is still alive! Okay, that explains all the ghost stuff. My friends said they were pretty annoyed at this point, and would have been pissed if the story ended soon after, using the well-worn “it was all a dream!” storyline. I personally didn’t mind so much, since the coma section expertly integrates a lot of the real-world stuff from beforehand, while also supplying new information, which will become important in the final third.
< < < SPOILERS END

Because the movie doesn’t stop there, it still has about 20 minutes to go. I won’t reveal much about this last section, except that it builds on everything that came before, meaning that the middle section wasn’t just processing of events from the first, it delivered new information that gets worked through in the final third. This is where it gets past the limitations of the structure we discussed earlier, and avoids the general sense that you’ve been cheated or just strung along.

So this movie has echoes of ghost stories, heist stories, and noir films, but the film this reminds me of most closely is Femme Fatale, which had a similar structure. A woman has her life, there’s a long middle section in which she reflects on it, and in the final third she has an opportunity to change it. What I liked about this movie is that it delicately focuses on that little moment where one has an opportunity to choose a different course—Sophie even says “I’m not even sure I want to go,” and we are left to consider how things would have been different if she hadn’t—and how vaguely sad it is when one chooses the same course and is doomed to the same results. There’s also a nice little note that our two leads could have said something that would lead to big trouble for the other, but even though things didn’t work out as planned, they make small lies that allow the other to go free. Hey, no hard feelings.

This is one of the few movies with lots of twists where the twists WORK, you don’t feel cheated, and one has the sense that they all add up and snap neatly into place, which cannot be said for a number of other movies with a lot of twists. And on top of all the thrills, the scares, the creepiness, it all works together and has a lot of moving emotional content that gives you something to chew on after all the twists are sorted out. And it’s getting better and better in my mind as I write about it, something that definitely cannot be said for every film.

Should you watch it: 

Yes, especially if you like mysteries, heists, ghost stories, mind-twisters… that kind of thing.