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“Deadlier than the mail”

Return_to_SenderPike seems to have been teetering on the edge of action-heroineness since she first reached popular attention as Bond girl Miranda Frost, in Die Another Day, thence through the likes of Queen Andromeda in Wrath of the Titans, and her upcoming portrayal of an undercover CIA agent in High Wire Act. With her star also on the rise for her Oscar-nominated performance in Gone Girl, one wonders whether such mainstream fare will become “beneath her”? If so, this may be among her final stops of at least tangential appeal, and with her character the focus of attention, the only one which reached the necessary threshold to qualify for inclusion on this site. Here, she plays Miranda, the victim of a brutal rape, whose orderly life is destroyed by the assault, yet who begins a long-distance relationship with her attacker (Fernandez). She claims this is a necessary part of the healing process, much to the disgust of her father (Nolte), who is concerned his daughter may be suffering from some variant of Stockholm Syndrome. However, are Miranda’s intentions quite as forgiving as they appear?

The existence of this review likely gives away the answer to that question, though the poster on the right (a Finnish one, emphasizing an element found in other publicity material) isn’t exactly avoiding the issue. And that’s the problem: the middle portion here, between the attack and the pay-off, more or less operates in a holding pattern, with the audience largely aware of where it’s going, yet the script still needs to put in the legwork to make its payoff credible. I can’t say it succeeds, leaning heavily on the fact that her attacker is a complete idiot, and like many rape-revenge films, also relies on the conceit that many rapists will have no problem hanging out with their victims after the event. I’ve no idea whether there is any psychological basis for fact in this, or if it’s just a convenient plot nicety. The other aspect which is kinda weird, is that Miranda isn’t actually a very nice person; a bit of a control-freak in many aspects of her life, and her lack of meaningful relationships is entirely unsurprising.

Between this and her subsequent actions, it appears the only reason the audience is given to care about her, is because she gets raped. Wait, what? I suppose the point might be, to show that sexual assault does not only happen to “nice” girls, but we’re not talking about a sociological study here. This is a work of fiction, and if you’re going to focus on a character with whom the audience is given no good reason to empathize, the film-makers had better be damn sure of their ground. Here, neither Mikati nor the writers are, even if Pike’s performance is decent, showing why I think she has potential as an action-heroine. This is left to operate in a vacuum, resulting in perhaps only the final 15-20 minutes achieving any degree of impact, and this is still muted, since you don’t care enough about anyone involved. Nowhere near as provocative or powerful as this needed to be.

Dir: Faoud Mikati
Star: Rosamund Pike, Shiloh Fernandez, Nick Nolte, Camryn Manheim

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