Reign Over Me
reviewed by Misael Soto
The most conservative film I’ve seen tackle 9/11 yet, Reign Over Me takes a more subdued route with a story about two men, old friends and college roommates Charlie Fineman (Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Cheadle) who meet up for the first time in a long time. Charlie, who we later learn lost his entire family on one of the planes flown into the World Trade Center, doesn’t remember Alan or much of anything from his past including most of his family and friends. Charlie is going through a severe form of post-traumatic stress, finding comfort in Alan’s friendship as they very quickly forge an intense bond, helping each other in some unexpected ways.
What bothers me, as it did most recently with The Fountain, is a good opportunity wasted. Binder had the chance to produce something much more powerful and resonant if only he had made the film a more purposeful venture. Instead we get a much better version of I Am Sam, nothing more (and with an equally impressive soundtrack, I might add). Sure, I cried. I laughed. I was thoroughly engaged, even. But there wasn't enough mind candy for me to chew on afterward. Not enough depth in the incredibly well-paced script for me to delve into.
Reign Over Me is filled with great performances, particularly Don Cheadle. I didn't much care for Sandler's clichéd mentally scarred psych case although he's certainly adequate and delivers during the emotional peaks of the film, when it counts. Another stand out is the film’s cinematography and overall style. Filled with metaphorically rich, although a bit obvious, juxtapositions that consistently grab one’s attention.
Reign Over Me lets you know the world sucks. It may depress you. It may even scare you enough to get you to think about your own mortality and question the road you're headed on. That's fantastic, if you need it. But what's the point if it stops there and doesn't suggest what steps come after the fact? Binder should have taken the initiative and not squandered it on pure melodrama alone. Instead his film is enjoyable but utterly forgettable.
Get out to see Reign Over Me for pure dramatic enjoyment and perhaps as a solid jumping off point into some more thought provoking cinema. Not wanting to fritter away a good opportunity, I'd suggest (among many others) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Apartment, The Return, and more recently The Lives of Others and L'Enfant.
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