Frantic (1988) / Thriller-Mystery
MPAA Rated: R, for violence, some language, brief drug and sexual content
Running Time: 120 min.
Cast: Harrison Ford, Emmanuelle Seigner, Betty Buckley, John Mahoney, Gerard Klein
Director: Roman Polanski
Screenplay: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach
Review published March 12, 1998
Dr. Richard Walker (Ford, The Mosquito Coast) and his loving wife (Buckley, Carrie) travel to Paris where he is to speak at a medical convention. In their hotel room, they discover that his wife has picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport, and they report this to TWA. While Dr. Walker is in the shower, his wife gets a phone call and is soon out of the room, and out of sight altogether as she is now missing. With the French police offering little assistance to his plight, Dr. Walker must search through Paris on his own, hoping for some trace of where his wife has gone to, forcing him through an odyssey through the underbelly of Paris' seediest locations.
Probably not the best commercial for Paris tourism, it's still an effective Hitchcockian thriller and a triumphant return to the genre by Polanski (Chinatown). Harrison Ford gives an outstanding performance as the doctor, and keeps the film together even when the film veers off into poorly misguided directions. The film itself is perfection for the first 45 minutes, a truly gripping mystery, but things begin to sag somewhat as Dr. Walker gets closer to finding out the truth with some contrived coincidences to push the plot along.
It probably would be compared most to Hitch's The Man Who Knew Too Much, with the humor of that classic replaced here for somber grit and tension. Polanski's wife, Emmanuelle Seigner (The Ninth Gate), makes an impressive debut as the French girl who owns the other suitcase belonging to his wife and travels along with Ford for the duration. With some tightening up of the action, and a snappier script, this would have been a classic thriller, but there is still much to like in this interesting and suspenseful endeavor.
©1998 Vince Leo