Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A Simple Plan - film review

A Simple Plan is a 1998 film directed by Sam Raimi and based on the book of the same name by Scott Smith. I haven't read the novel, though it was a big, big best-seller, but if it's as good as the film, then there' s no doubt that it deserves its success. The film is gripping pretty much from start to finish, with good acting, moral dilemmas to think about, and several decent twists.

Hank (Bill Paxton) is a well-educated married man living in a snowy and remote rural community; his wife (Bridget Fonda) is a librarian who is expecting a baby. He has a brother, Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) who isn't bright, but the siblings have a close relationship. One day, they go on a trip with a pal called Lou, and come across a plane, buried in the snow. When Hank climbs inside, he finds that the pilot is long dead. He also discovers that the cargo is a load of money - not far short of five million dollars. So what should they do?

What they don't do, needless to say, is report their find to the proper authorities. After some hesitation, Hank takes control of the money, and the trio agree to wait to see what happens about the plane before spending any of it. To his surprise, Hank finds that his wife soon agrees that they should keep their share of the money. The way in which the film shows essentially decent people making very questionable choices is a real strength.

As you might imagine, things do not go as the three amateur thieves would hope, and before long, innocent blood is shed. Hank and Jacob don't behave admirably, and yet I didn't lose sympathy for them. (Perhaps some viewers will take a harsher view of them, but I felt that Paxton and Thornton did a brilliant job of conveying the way that human beings so often rationalise self-serving decisions.) I'm glad I watched this film. It's one of the best thrillers I've seen recently.

3 comments:

Robert said...

You make an interesting comment about comparing novel and film; however, in response to that comment, let me throw a question at you. Is it necessarily true that a good film results from a good novel? Perhaps good films can be made from average or less than average novels. After all, the novelist might have a very good plot and characters but poor execution and craftsmanship; then a good scriptwriter, director, and cast can turn the sow's ear into a silk purse. For example, I can think of a number of Agatha Christie books that are average but the TV screenplays have turned them into great successes.

BTW, new to the crime fiction blogging world (see Crimes in the Library -- my new blog), I look forward to visiting your site again in the future.

All the best from one of the estranged colonies across the Atlantic.

seana graham said...

I didn't see the film, but I did happen to read the book and though I don't remember all the details, it sounds like they were pretty faithful to the story at least in tone. I really liked it at the time.

Clothes In Books said...

I saw this when it first came out and very much liked it. I recently read a very favourable review of the book, though can't remember where....