Official Description: Veteran paranormal researchers Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) debunk fraudulent claims of ghost whispering, faith healing and other psychic phenomena by detecting what Matheson calls red lights, the subtle tricks behind every staged supernatural occurrence. But when the legendary blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement after 30 years, his once-fearless adversary Matheson warns Buckley to back off, fearing reprisal from the powerful Silver. Determined to discredit Silver, Buckley and his star student (Elizabeth Olsen) use every tool at their disposal to uncover the truth behind the charismatic, spoon-bending, mind reader. But Buckley is forced to reexamine his own core beliefs as his quest builds to a mind-blowing conclusion in this taut psychological thriller from award-winning writer and director Rodrigo Cortés (Buried).
Unofficial Description: Well, I’ll say this – it wasn’t what I thought it was.
I thought this was De Niro versus Weaver – turns out, it was Murphy versus De Niro, and mostly Murphy. I’m a bit surprised that De Niro was in this movie at all. I’m not saying that to belittle his performance. As always, he did a stellar job. Just didn’t feel like his kind of movie.
Murphy plays the role of an obsessed scientist who has to prove nothing supernatural exists, and that it can all be explained by science, quite well. Weaver also does well as his mentor. She has a lot of baggage driving her to debunk so-called psychics. There is a particularly amusing encounter with a fellow researcher about halfway through the movie that stands out to me, and shows Weaver was having some fun playing this role – which I always like to see.
You never really know if all of the paranormal stuff is real or not as you make your way through this movie. Some stuff is debunked relentlessly, while other incidents are completely ignored. De Niro, as Silver, does an excellent job portraying a psychic with powers and abilities others have been unable to debunk. There is also a mystique surrounding him, driven home by those around him, that lends to his character and powers.
It’s definitely a slow burn in this movie. And I think the filmmakers were going for a methodical uptick in tension that ultimately failed with this watcher.
Having said that, I still enjoyed the film, though I’m glad I caught it on Netflix and didn’t pay ‘extra’ to rent it somewhere, or see it in the theater.