Paul (Greg Kinnear of Stuck On You) and Jessie Duncan (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos of X-Men) are a happy couple with a nice eight year old boy named Adam (Cameron Bright of The Butterfly Effect). Paul works as an inner city schoolteacher and Jesse is a professional photographer. Together the three of them seem to live a very happy life, until Adam is killed when a car careens off the road trying to avoid a cyclist.
Enter Dr. Richard Wells (Robert DeNiro of Goodfellas), a brilliant genetics expert who offers the Duncan's a chance to create an exact clone of Adam using his DNA. While they know that this is illegal and unsanctioned, they agree and he relocates them to a small town, setting Paul up with a nice teaching job and Jessie up with her own darkroom in their new home. A few months later, their new child is born, and once again they name him Adam. Things go well for the first eight years, but once the new Adam passes the age at which the original Adam was killed, they're heading into uncharted territory.
Adam begins seeing things and waking up in the middle of the night screaming. His behavior becomes very erratic and unpredictable, and obviously his parents become quite concerned. Dr. Wells tells them that it's a common sleep disorder, that it's simply 'night terrors' that their son is experiencing but Paul feels differently and begins to look into things a little deeper. He soon uncovers some rather unpleasant details about Wells' past, and another boy who experienced very similar symptoms to Adam's.
Godsend is well directed with some great cinematography and nice set pieces. The filmmakers make very nice use of shadow and lighting and there are a few scenes that have a very creepy look to them, particularly when Adam is experiencing his 'night terrors.' They've obviously put some effort into creating a sufficiently eerie atmosphere for the film from the visuals to the sound mix and on that level, Godsend works quite well.
The film also benefits from some pretty decent performances from the cast. Greg Kinnear is far better here than in some of the lighter material that I've seen him in and is quite believable in his role as a grieving and understandably frustrated father. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is given a lot more to do here than just look sultry and in fact her looks are played down quite a bit for this role, giving her a chance to prove that aside from being fun to look at, she's not a half bad actress either. DeNiro doesn't deliver a stand out performance on the level of some of his classic work, but he's dependable as always and gives a nice restrained turn as the doctor. Even the child actor, Cameron Bright, is quite good, bringing equal parts of sympathy and disdain for his character to his work.
Godsend is far from a great move though. It had a few of the trappings – nice direction, a good creepy look, and a good cast – but missed the boat big time on the script. If you don't have the so-called twist ending figured out about fifteen to twenty minutes into the movie, you're really not paying close enough attention. The movie is quite predictable and because of that the movie lacks any real impact. While it's easy to sympathize with the two grieving parents and their situation, we know as soon as they agree to the illegal cloning procedure where everything is headed which takes all the mystery, some of the scares, and a good chunk of the fun out of the proceedings.
It's not a terrible movie, and there are some nicely handled moments of suspense and a couple of good jump scares, but the predictable plot and a few moments of awkward dialogue really keep this one from reaching its full potential.
Godsend gets a spiffy 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that, aside from a couple of instances of barely noticeable print damage, looks pretty darn good. There is some very light edge enhancement noticeable a few times but the black levels remain very deep and stable throughout and there aren't any serious compression issues. Colors are very well reproduced and flesh tones look nice and lifelike. There's plenty of detail evident throughout and Lion's Gate has done a very nice job capturing the look of this film on DVD.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix suits the film quite nicely. Some of the dialogue is a little bit low in the mix but not so much that you can't hear it. Surrounds are used to build mood and atmosphere and there's plenty of times when the rear speakers kick in at just the right times providing some fun jump scares. Background music is mixed in nicely against the dialogue and sound effects and the levels seem mixed properly, providing pretty good ambient noise during the outdoor scenes. Aside from those few scenes where the dialogue could have been boosted a bit, this is a good sound mix.
Director Nick Hamm and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau provide a very mediocre commentary track that spends most of its time telling us what's happening on screen. Things pick up a bit when Hamm begins discussing some of the issues that he had with the ending of the film though, and there are some interesting bits and pieces of technical information scattered throughout the track.
Lion's Gate has also supplied four alternate endings for the film, all of which have commentary from Nick Hamm and writer Mark Bomback, both of whom are quite honest about what works and what doesn't in each of the four segments. There's a 'play all' option included for this feature. One of the endings in particular would have made for a much darker finale and in my opinion should have been used instead of the one they ended up going with as it suites the tone of the film better. I'll say no more though, as I don't want to spoil it.
Rounding out the extras are storyboard galleries for two of the scenes from the film, as well as trailers for three unrelated Lion's Gate films, but not for the feature itself.
Godsend is just okay. It could have been a lot better than it was, but it could have been a lot worse. Performances are decent, it's well directed, and Lion's Gate has done a very nice job on the DVD presentation. Sadly, that can't help the writing and the predictability factor, which are the film's major flaws. Because of this, the film has very little replay value. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.