I never thought I would be say this about a kid from the Mickey Mouse Club, but Ryan Gosling has turned into quite the actor. Compared to other Disney alumni, his ascent to stardom has been more modest. He's appeared in smaller films (The Notebook) and has garnered an armload of critical praise, including an Oscar nomination for his work in Half Nelson. Since he's an up-and-comer, it's logical to pair him up with a more established thespian to see how the two fare together. In this case, Fracture puts him together with Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs). However, unlike another film with Hopkins and Cuba Gooding, who was in Gosling's shoes a decade ago, Fracture appears to be a better film than Instinct.
In the film, written by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers and directed by Gregory Hoblit (Frequency), Gosling plays Willy Beachum, a lawyer for the district attorney's office in Los Angeles who wins 97% of the cases he tries. Willy drives a late model BMW and lives in a space slightly larger than a garage, and has champagne aspirations despite his beer budget. When we first meet Willy, he has just accepted a high-paying job at a powerful law firm, and he's cruising through his last days in the DA's office. He's handed one final case which seems to be a slam-dunk. An engineer named Ted Crawford (Hopkins) has shot his wife. One day, Ted left work and went by the hotel where his wife and her lover were staying. But he doesn't shoot her until she arrives home, whereupon Ted stages a standoff with the LAPD. He allows the hostage negotiator into the house, who happens to be the lover in question. The case has a weapon and confession in the case. Willy should nail it.
But he doesn't. Willy's At the arraignment, Ted eagerly wants Willy to try the case, and even chooses to serve as his own defense counsel. Soon, Willy underestimates his competition and finds himself on his heels, partly from being ill-prepared but also because of Ted's cunning. Experience has taught Ted that in everything, both people and objects, flaws exist, caused by either structural abnormalities or human nature. His ability to pick up on Willy's vanity and exploit it in the case helps turn the case on its ear.
But Fracture deviates from many other legal thrillers which often focus on the case and the attempts to put away the perpetrator. Here, we are engrossed as Willy tries to regain his composure and solve the case. In fact, the movie helps show us the trail itself is hardly the main point of interest, as it ends early in the third act. Meanwhile, Willy's entire belief structure changes throughout the film. In the beginning, he's cocky and arrogant. As Ted starts to play him a bit, you see how lost he becomes, and Gosling translates this well, sometimes without saying a word. In one scene in the second act when he meets his future boss, Nikki (Rosamund Pike, Doom) for a drink, he's without direction and hope. He's not willing to give up but feels out of options, and the way in which he deals with this, trying to find justice for a woman whose case was supposed to be so simple, is endearing and honest.
And while Gosling continues to bolster his body of work with a solid performance, Hopkins isn't phoning it in either. He clearly has fun with the role of Ted: it's a bad guy role and we know he enjoys working the protagonist for most of the movie. With a capable supporting actors David Strathairn (Eight Men Out) and Cliff Curtis (Sunshine) rounding out the cast, Fracture is good, taut storytelling in a different vein for legal thrillers worth your time and attention.
The Blu-ray Disc:
We get Fracture in a VC-1 encoded 2.35:1 presentation for 1080p high definition, and the results are solid. Starting from the early sequence when Willy goes to Ted's arraignment in a tuxedo, the blacks stand out well and are deep in appearance. In a feature where most of the film's events occur in subdued lighting (or in darkness altogether), they can be easily discerned. Image detail is strong in fabrics and facial detail, and often times the picture looks multidimensional. However, it doesn't retain that sharpness throughout the picture, and the inconsistency is slightly distracting at times, but otherwise this is a sharp looking movie.
At times, I was left underwhelmed by the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This is a quiet film, and Gosling often times seems to mumble through. Considering his character is slightly arrogant for the first half of the film, I was expecting a little more braggadocio. Despite the film's sonic inactivity, it brings in clever use of directional effects. During one sequence when Willy is talking to Nikki's Dad, you could hear birds outside the house. In the initial sequence when Ted is arrested, you get all of the ambient police noise outside his door. Decent stuff, albeit frustrating at times.
The extras are brought over from the standard definition disc, starting with five deleted/alternate scenes (11:12) that establish Willy's surroundings and flesh out more of the relationship between him and Nikki, but the scenes themselves are bland. I'm surprised that there are two alternate endings here (22:47); they are small deviations from the actual climax, and thus, equally forgettable. The film's trailer (2:21) completes the set.
Fracture features worthwhile performances from both leading men, and although the story may be familiar to some, the way it's told is refreshing. Technically the film does what it's expected to do in high-definition, but the extras leave me feeling hollow. It's definitely a rental for a different take on things.