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The Clearing

3.8 5
Director: Pieter Jan Brugge

Cast: Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe


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Dutch film producer Pieter Jan Brugge makes his directorial debut with the dramatic thriller The Clearing. Affluent executive Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford) and his lovely wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), live in a beautiful home in Pittsburg. One day, Wayne is kidnapped by disgruntled employee Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe). He is then held for ransom in a forest.


Dutch film producer Pieter Jan Brugge makes his directorial debut with the dramatic thriller The Clearing. Affluent executive Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford) and his lovely wife, Eileen (Helen Mirren), live in a beautiful home in Pittsburg. One day, Wayne is kidnapped by disgruntled employee Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe). He is then held for ransom in a forest. Meanwhile, Eileen is forced to reckon with the FBI agents as they negotiate with the kidnapper. Alessandro Nivola and Melissa Sagemiller star as the two grown Hayes children. Matt Craven plays FBI Agent Ray Fuller. The Clearing premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Somber yet engrossing, The Clearing is an unusually intelligent thriller that eschews the superficialities of its genre and puts character above plot. Robert Redford portrays a middle-aged businessman -- fundamentally decent, yet flawed -- kidnapped by a resentful ex-employee (Willem Dafoe), who resorts to this because he feels he has little to lose. Helen Mirren costars as the victim’s dutiful wife, whose faith in her spouse is shaken when the investigation into his kidnapping reveals that he might not have broken off an earlier affair, as he had promised. Pieter Jan Brugge, a veteran producer (The Insider, Bulworth, The Pelican Brief), makes his directorial debut here: He develops the story slowly, revealing small facts one at a time, which makes the viewer mentally piece them together like a jigsaw puzzle. There are no car chases, no melodramatic confrontations, no blazing shootouts -- just a few key characters interacting and gradually revealing to each other (and themselves) facts and feelings with varying degrees of importance. Absent the familiar trappings of such films, The Clearing relies almost exclusively on the abilities of its principal players, who bring shading upon shading to the spare dialogue Brugge provides. Redford takes a seemingly two-dimensional figure and fleshes him out admirably, and Dafoe is exceptionally good as the desperate kidnapper. The movie isn’t always easy to follow: Brugge plays around with the timeline, and as a result, the narrative seems disjointed. But everything comes together in as gripping a climax as you’re likely to see anytime soon. For exemplary acting and assured, minimalist directing, The Clearing is tough to equal, and we guarantee it’ll stick with you for some time to come.
All Movie Guide - Karl Williams
The directorial debut of producer Pieter Jan Brugge, this drama disguised as a thriller is more interested in the psychological journey undertaken by its three principal characters than it is in the trappings of its genre. For much of the film, that creative choice works. There are plenty of reasons, early on, to become engrossed; the fact that the seemingly placid, happy marriage of Wayne (Robert Redford) and Eileen (Helen Mirren) is troubled enough that at first, she is not certain if he has been kidnapped or has abandoned her, is an involving development that touches on notions of karmic payback (if he had been faithful, Wayne would have been considered a kidnapping victim sooner) and reveals the unspoken inner conflict Eileen is suffering (terrified her husband is being hurt, but angry he has abandoned her again). Equally, Wayne's response to his predicament is to deal with it as a business problem to be solved through negotiation and a little bullying -- exactly the wrong stance to adopt toward his self-pitying captor, Arnold (Willem Dafoe, typically, reliably creepy even in the role of a mundane, blue-collar drone). These are fascinating characters, superbly played with nuanced performances, as hypnotic as the rippling waves of a placid pond after a heavy stone is tossed into its center. It's frustrating, then, that the writer/director doesn't sustain his momentum for the entire film. Once the characters' inner lives have been bared, The Clearing (2004) should wrap it up fast, but it stumbles on, and by the time of the "twist" ending (one that is none too difficult to see coming), Brugge has run out of steam -- just when the conventions of the thriller might have rescued his story, if not his protagonists.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Starz / Anchor Bay
Region Code:
[Wide Screen, Color]
[Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Redford Wayne Hayes
Helen Mirren Eileen Hayes
Willem Dafoe Arnold Mack
Alessandro Nivola Tim Hayes
Matt Craven FBI Agent Ray Fuller
Melissa Sagemiller Jill Hayes
Wendy Crewson Louise Miller
Larry Pine Tom Finch
Diana Scarwid Eva Finch
Elizabeth Ruscio Cindy Mack
Sarah Koskoff Actor

Technical Credits
Pieter Jan Brugge Director,Original Story,Producer
Craig Armstrong Score Composer
Douglas Axtell Sound/Sound Designer
Chris Gorak Production Designer
Justin Haythe Original Story,Screenwriter
Paul Huggins Art Director
Denis Lenoir Cinematographer
Florence-Isabelle Megginson Costumes/Costume Designer
John Rusk Asst. Director
Jonah Smith Producer
Karen Tenkhoff Executive Producer
Kevin Tent Editor
Victoria Thomas Casting
Dara Weintraub Co-producer
Palmer West Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Clearing
1. Chapter 1 [9:51]
2. Chapter 2 [10:10]
3. Chapter 3 [9:59]
4. Chapter 4 [10:07]
5. Chapter 5 [9:02]
6. Chapter 6 [11:07]
7. Chapter 7 [9:42]
8. Chapter 8 [9:59]
9. Chapter 9 [10:34]
10. Chapter 10 [3:48]


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The Clearing 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I watched this movie last night and thought it was very good. The acting was excellent. I hadn't seen Robert Redford in a film in a long time. He did an admirable job.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My husband and I watched this movie and really enjoyed it. The plot is developed in such a manner that you don't want to blink because you are afraid of missing something. My husband said it is a thriller, I say it is a love story, you be the judge. This is a keeper for your personal library!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've seen this movie twice now and I seem to dislike it more and more. The plot is alright, not fabulous.. but it just didn't go anywhere. The reason I do not care for this movie is probably because of the ending. LOUSY.
niafong More than 1 year ago
In a role of reversals, and I will not give away this excellent plot, one of the most respected actors in cinema, Robert Redford, played his role astonisingly well. It was a truly soul-searching movement the entire film with results some people would rather not dwell on.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Redford and Helen Mirren--how can you go wrong? The first time I saw this movie, I was unhappy with the ending. The second time around, I understood why it had to end the way it did and I appreciated the movie more. If you love these actors, don't miss this movie.