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Posted October 1, 2010
A Dark Story in a Dark Place Without the Benefit of a Director's Enlightment
A LITTLE TRIP TO HEAVEN is a strange little Indie film by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, a young director with some very fine ideas but with a script (written both by the director and Edward Martin Weinman) 'that is so spongy that the impact of the film relies on the considerable qualities of the cinematic images. Filmed primarily in Iceland with some scenes in Hastings, Minnesota, the mood is dank and dark and cold - and so is the story. We first meet insurance investigator ('adjustor') Abe Holt as he listens to his boss Frank (Peter Coyote) explain to a new widow why she will not receive full death benefits because the insurance company took photos of her husband smoking, the apparent cause of his death. Abe just sits in the background but we know he is in tune with the fraudulent activity of the insurance company. Almost immediately he is assigned to a new case: an ex-con with a million dollar life insurance policy has apparently been found dead in a car crash burned beyond recognition. Abe drives to the tiny snowy desolate village where his questions of the townsfolk reveal that the victim was Kelvin Anderson, the brother of Isold (Julia Stiles) who is married to a low life type named Fred (Jeremy Renner), a man who we have seen in flashbacks as the one responsible for arranging the car crash and setting the car on fire. Abe sneaks around the town, spies on Isold, and becomes involved in the investigation in more ways than the honest one. It is the interplay of the three - Abe, Fred, and Isold - that provide the intrigue and mystery of the apparent framed insurance scam. The screenplay is so full of holes that it is difficult to follow the case's development. The actors are superb artists: Forest Whitaker made this film almost simultaneously with his Oscar winning 'The Last King of Scotland' yet here his character is plagued by an affected accent and by the lack of substance that might make us care about his plight Julia Stiles does her best with the little she is given to do and Jeremy Renner is convincingly menacing without any factors that make us find him worth caring about. The supporting actors (Joanna Scanlan as a sleazy bartender, Iddo Goldberg and Philip Jackson as the police, Alfred Harmsworth as the 'son' of Isold, and Vladas Bagdonas as the coroner) actually fare better than the leads as far as material available. The strong aspect of the film is the visual imagery, due to the decisions of picture composition by Kormákur and cinematographer Óttar Guðnason and Mugison's musical is apropos for the mood. But the film remains grounded and a bit on the confusing side because of the director's lack of unity. One wonders why Whitaker, Stiles, and Renner signed on to this little film. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.