2004's Amnesia, starring John Hannah, Jemma Redgrave, and Anthony Calf, is an involving British made-for-TV mystery that will keep you guessing right up until its surprising and exciting climax. Written by Chris Lang, this Hitchcockian thriller is tightly paced and nicely observed by director Nick Laughland, with some solid support from its British thespians. Don't worry about spoilers in the review; I wouldn't dream of wrecking Amnesia suspenseful surprises.
Detective Sergeant Mack Stone (John Hannah) is a man obsessed. His beautiful wife, Lucia (Beatriz Batarda), has been missing for three months. While on vacation, Mack spends endless hours on the computer, posting her photo and information on missing persons websites from all over the world, as well as driving around the surrounding area, tacking up wanted posters. Lucia's disappearance, however, isn't so mysterious to Mack. Never quite sure if he's imagining it or not -- because he has a drinking problem -- Mack's reoccurring nightmares about the day she ran away from him and their house are quickly overwhelming him with guilt and terror. If his dreams are correct, she very well may have left the house during an argument, and he may have killed her in the surrounding woods. His police partner, Ian Reid (Brendan Coyle) is sympathetic to his partner's plight, but Ian harbors his own secrets about Mack and Lucia's marriage, and he quickly comes to believe that Mack may know more about Lucia's disappearance than he's letting on.
In a separate subplot, we're introduced to "John Dean" (Anthony Calf), the owner of a small shipyard repair shop, who for the last five years has suffered from total global amnesia. After surviving a massive injury to his head, he lost all past information about his life. Now, he's happily married to Jenna (Jemma Redgrave), and the subject of numerous psychological studies by Dr. Mark Denton (Jeremy Child). When Dr. Denton lets John know that a new radical procedure is available that may totally restore his memory, John quickly declines; he's happy with his new life, and he fears what he may discover in his past. Unfortunately, he doesn't tell Jenna about this offer; their repair shop is having financial difficulties, and the 7,000 pounds fee offered to John would be welcome help.
The two subplots cross when Mack discovers a flier for a missing person, "Paul West," who he believes may be "John Dean." Piecing together the final days of Paul West, Mack believes that Paul West murdered his wife and baby, and disappeared on purpose, to start a new life as John Dean -- and that he may just do the same to his new wife Jenna. Unfortunately, Mack's erratic state does little to help convince his partner Ian, or his superior, Detective Inspector Brennan (Patrick Malahide), of this far-out theory. Mack's constant harassment of John and Jenna borders on the criminal, further pushing his partner and boss into thinking that Mack has finally cracked under the strain of his personal problems. When Ian goes to D. I. Brennan with his suspicions that Mack may have murdered Lucia, circumstances begin to point to a very different picture of both Mack and John.
The acting in Amnesia is first-rate. Hannah, a fine Scottish actor (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Mummy), is believably intense as the barely in control police officer, without ever going overboard into hammy or overwrought theatrics. Calf, who reminds you of Aidan Quinn, is appropriately mysterious and compelling as the amnesiac John Dean. And Jemma Redgrave, of the famous Redgrave acting dynasty, is quietly realistic as the wife whose suspicions start to get the better of her. There's a marvelous sense of place in Amnesia, with terrific location shooting in England that gives the film an open-air, big-screen feel. Director Nick Laughland does a good job of bringing the two separate stories together, building the suspense expertly as the two flawed protagonists move towards their inevitable confrontation. Amnesia's a skillful, involving thriller, and one that's well worth your time.
The 1.78:1, enhanced for 16x9 TVs, widescreen video image for Amnesia is beautifully rendered, with perfectly balanced hues and strong blacks. It's a marvelously glossy looking film, and it looks great here.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo soundtrack is quite active, with some nicely realized effects with nature sounds, whenever the camera goes outside. It's a well thought out sound design. There are no close-captioning or subtitles available.
There are no extras for Amnesia.
A finely crafted British TV mystery with Hitchcockian overtones, Amnesia delivers the goods for those who like their thrillers glossy, intricate, well-acted, and well-paced. I recommend Amnesia.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.