A taut thriller based on the worldwide best-selling novel by S.J. Watson, 'Before I Go to Sleep' is the story of a woman (Nicole Kidman) who wakes up every day with no memory as the result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, terrifying new truths begin to emerge that make her question everything she thinks she knows about her life - as well as everyone in it, including her doctor (Mark Strong) and even her husband (Colin Firth).
'Before I Go to Sleep' shows a lot of promise. Based on the bestseller by S. J. Watson, the plot involves a woman who can't remember anything from the day before she wakes up, to the presence of Nicole Kidman, to the surrounding cast of Mark Strong and Colin Firth. I mean, it sounds like a winner, right? It starts off that way, with a potent feeling of dread as Christine Lucas (Kidman) wakes up in a fright. She's in a strange room, lying next to a strange man. Ever since "the accident" her mind erases itself 'Memento'-style. A hard reset. She's thrust back to a time in her memory where she doesn't remember her home, her husband, or anything that happened after a mysterious accident.
Kidman, ever the consummate performer, is great here. She really is. But, she's unable to drag the movie along with her. The screenplay asks her to be conjure up the tears in almost every scene. The thriller-aspect is subverted by the overt emotion that Christine is forced to display. It feels like two disparate movies. After a while, watching Kidman's reddened eyes becomes too much. There's just so much emotion. So much drama, that when the thriller elements are mixed in they feel out of place.
Christine's husband, Ben (Firth) is frazzled too. He wakes up every morning, next to a woman who forgets who he is. He's plastered photos all over their home to remind her who she is. We quickly learn, however, that Ben has some secrets. Does he have something to hide, or is he just protecting Christine from a life of heartbreak?
Complicating matters is shadowy psychologist Dr. Nasch (Strong) who calls Christine as soon as Ben leaves for work. He claims to be helping Christine with her memory. Of course, we have no idea who he is, as we're left in the same predicament as Christine. We're just as lost.
Like I said, the start of the movie is very promising. There is an underlying current of dread as Christine fumbles about trying to remember anything useful about herself. Flashbacks provide much-needed background, but they're choppy, and only appear at the exact times the plot needs them.
After a while, Kidman's teary-eyed display becomes grating. Perhaps that sounds insensitive, but there you have it. There's this mystery, a decent one about a woman who's forgotten everything, however the mystery can only do so much. For great swaths of the movie's runtime we're frustratingly ruminating on the same plot points. All the while Kidman and Firth are strained to their breaking points. The amount of tears on set must have set some sort of Hollywood record.
Once the real engine of the mystery gets going, it feels half-cocked. It's not necessarily predictable, though some people may see it coming. Instead it seems implausible. A story constructed just so. Every piece fits together nicely when revealed. It all feels too clean. At first the entire story is messy, it's human. As it churns through its paces it becomes more and more generic. As it hits each important story arc, the beats become familiar. We know that it's probably not going to stay true to its initial messiness.
The proceedings are grim. While the professionals involved are wonderful actors, and there's a lot of acting for them to do, the movie crumbles under its payoff. There's no way a story like this could end up neat and tidy. Yet, here comes the wrapping paper and bow.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 25GB Blu-ray provided by 20th Century Fox. The release comes with a Digital Copy code, but that's it. It's as barebones as it comes.
What stands out in 'Before I Go to Sleep's 1080p presentation is how cinematic it looks. There's some nice natural grain here, giving the movie a decidedly art house feel. By no means is it clean and crisp like many digitally produced motion pictures. It's a nice change, really. The added texture gives it a great movielike appearance.
Even with the grain, detail is wonderful here. A close-up of Kidman's eye reveals the tinniest of capillaries, and the most intricate details of her iris. Skin texture is just as stunning. It's all extremely lifelike. A few outdoor scenes provide wide shots that harbor just as much detail-infused photography. The exterior shots of the Lucas home are splendid. They feature wonderfully detailed trees, spot-on coloring, and astoundingly accurate contrast.
The movie's color filter switches between teal and yellow depending on whether we're looking at a flashback or not. Even when the color is filtered, the results are fairly exquisite.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is heavy. Really heavy. I was actually surprised how much of this movie's sound mix resides in the lower end of the spectrum. Most of its foreboding music is constantly rumbling the sub-woofer. Plenty of tense moments are punctuated by thundering shots of LFE. If there's one thing that really sticks out about this presentation, it's that the bass is surprisingly cranked way up.
That said, the bass-heavy nature of the mix doesn't overshadow the whispery dialogue. Yes, this is one of those movies where everyone whispers most of the time. They're always so emotional, so no one really talks like a normal person. However, the whispers are still clear and easily heard through the center channel.
The surround channels are a little quiet. There are a few public areas like a hospital or a park that offer some ambient sound, but most of the movie is confined to spaces and scenes that don't offer much in the way of surround sound. That's to be expected though. What was unexpected is how much of a workout this soundtrack will give your subs.
'Before I Go to Sleep' has promise. Its cast is solid. The drama is real, but it doesn't mix well with the psychological thriller elements within the script. Essentially it feels like it's two different movies warring against each other and the only loser is the viewer. The video is filmic, the audio is bass-heavy, and the movie is below par. It's a rental at best.