Although Roman Polanski has adapted the conventions of the mystery-thriller genre to his own ends since Knife in the Water (1962), Frantic marks his most direct engagement with the classic legacy of Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang. Beyond its evident, highly entertaining action elements – kidnapping and rescue, hair-raising stunts and the journey of an ill-equipped Everyman into a shady, criminal underworld – Frantic is a remarkable attenuation of the Hitchcockian point-of-view structure.
While Walker and sidekick Michelle (Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski’s third and current wife) make their way through multiple locations, and a more mobile camera is utilised than is typical for Polanski, Frantic is nonetheless most compelling in its localised frustration and personal anxiety, as Polanski builds a taut pressure by keeping his focus tightly on Ford.
It opens promisingly. . . . But instead of things building from there, the energy gradually dissipates, and by the time the mystery is “solved,” it's difficult to care very much. Polanski seems to have something in mind about American innocence and international power (the Statue of Liberty is used as a significant icon), but his usual surrealism is almost completely absent, and most of the visual motifs . . . register mainly as empty signifiers (1988).
75 of 3 reviews