Urban Cinefile
"One lady threw herself at me and hugged me and kissed me and called out, 'Francis! Francis! She was pissed, but it helped my confidence no end! "  -Sir Derek Jacobi on playing Francis Bacon in Love is the Devil
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Psychologist Dr Louis Sachs (Oliver Platt) implores his colleague, top gun psychologist Dr Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas), to help a seemingly deeply disturbed young woman, Elisabeth (Brittany Murphy) who defies diagnosis but remains almost catatonic. In fact, Elisabeth knows a secret number that just-freed criminal Patrick Koster (Sean Bean) is desperate to know, as it will lead him to an immense, valuable stolen diamond that Elisabeth’s father stole from Patrick a 10 year jail term ago – when the father was killed by Patrick and his hoods in front of young Elisabeth’s eyes at a subway station. Dr Conrad’s motivation to get that number are given extra momentum when Patrick kidnaps the Conrads’ 8-year old daughter, Jessie (Skye McCole Bartusiak).

Flawed but still gripping, Don’t Say A Word is built from many familiar elements into a mixed up thriller that’s carried by its star power, not its often violent and convulsed script. A decent enough set-up takes us into what appears to be a richly textured plot some of which eventually dissolves as red herrings, but it’s done with great craftsmanship. Several improbabilities aside, the core of the story and the editing gives the film an intense and interesting appeal. Douglas is great in this sort of role, the super-stressed husband and father having to find a way of saving his kidnapped daughter from a clutch of nasties. Young Skye is terrific as the feisty little kidnap victim, and Sean Bean delivers juicy menace as Patrick. But the most interesting characterisation is good old Oliver Platt, who makes a great fist of being likeable yet unsavoury all at once. The excellent Mark Isham score is augmented by a great track from Greame Revell during the main heist sequence and Amir M. Mokri’s cinematography is top class. Pity the film itself tends towards the crass.
Andrew L. Urban

A tense and gripping thriller sizzling with the star power of Michael Douglas, Don't Say A Word is a great night's entertainment. Douglas slips comfortably into the mould of the eminently brilliant psychiatrist and doting Dad/devoted husband. Always charismatic with considerable screen presence, he carries the film easily, constructing complexity into the character; he always leaves us wanting more. Good pacing and polished direction from Gary Fleder makes this one of those films that puts you on the edge of your seat throughout. The script (adapted from a prize-winning novel) works well with the story unfolding compellingly like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. And we are totally sucked in. This is sophisticated, slick filmmaking with sharp editing and a marvellously edgy score by Mark Isham. Fleder creates a great sense of place, cleverly differentiating the look and feel of the apartment as opposed to life outside, where we enjoy the beauty of New York's distinctive skyline. Sean Bean makes a formidable villain – cool, cocky and detestable in an enticing sway. The entire cast is good – Oliver Platt as the flawed medico, Famke Janssen as Douglas' bed-bound wife and Skye McCole Bartusiak as his street smart daughter. Janssen's immobilising broken leg in a cast is reminiscent of James Stewart's plight in Rear Window, when the horror of not being able to move is at its most frightening. Don't analyse too much; too much scrutiny will reveal a few flaws both in the plot and execution. One small thing that did bother me is in the casting of the young Elizabeth (played by Isabella Fink), whose prominently freckled face contradicts the clearskinned older Elizabeth, played by Brittany Murphy (memorable). But as a whole, these flaws are easy to overlook in the name of true nail-biting and thrilling entertainment. Don't Say A Word, just go see it!
Louise Keller

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1


CAST: Michael Douglas, Brittany Murphy, Sean Bean, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Famke Janssen, Oliver Platt, Jennifer Esposito

PRODUCERS: Anne Kopelson, Arnold Kopelson, Arnon Milchan

DIRECTOR: Gary Fleder

SCRIPT: Anthony Peckham, Patrick Smith Kelly


EDITOR: Armen Minasian, William Steinkamp

MUSIC: Mark Isham (& Graeme Revell’s Heist)


RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 25, 2001

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020