Fallen is a crash of genres. It takes a detective/sleuth genre and smashes it together with a thriller/supernatural genre. Typically, smashing genres together, especially such different genres, doesn’t work really well. How well does it work with Fallen?
The movie starts off with the calm voice of Detective Hobbes (Denzel Washington) recounting a story for us, “I want to tell you about the time I almost died.” And from here we are transported back in time to the start of the events that Hobbes is referring to. Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas) is about to go to the gas chamber. But, before he does, he gets a visit from the detective that caught him and sent him to the chamber, Detective John Hobbes. As Reese is sent off to the gas chamber, he starts to sing a song, that is used very well throughout the film, “Time is on my side…”
What happens next is the supernatural part, it seems that Reese was the embodiment of a fallen angel, Azazel. Now that Reese has been gassed to death, he’s pretty angry and wants to get some payback. It seems that Azazel travels from body to body via touch. Azazel doesn’t want to kill Hobbes right away, he wants to play with Hobbes and ruin his life first.
Hobbes is quickly alerted to Azazel’s presence, by Azazel in different people. But, Hobbes is confused to how – as he believes – Reese is doing what he’s doing, since he believes that Reese is dead. For Hobbes and his partner Jonesy (John Goodman) the problem is to find out what is happening and how it is happening. In his detective work, Hobbes runs into Gretta Milano, the daughter of a cop who killed himself 30 some years ago. There is a link between Milano’s dad and what is happening to Hobbes. She tells Hobbes about Azazel and helps him out.
Fallen is a well-written film by Nicolas Kazan. It does well with the mixing of the genres and plays somewhat like a longer episode of The known – Primal Fear, does an excellent job of bringing the audience into the film without a sudden onslaught of supernaturalism. Hoblit is able to ease us slowly into the supernatural portion of the film because the script has Hobbes as an unbeliever and the audience is slowly brought to the point of suspension of disbelief as we follow Hobbes' own trip into the supernatural. The film itself looks beautiful with its washed out colors and high contrast cinematography. Kudos to cinematographer Tom Sigel. The film looks almost like a David Fincher film – it would have been fun to see how the film would have turned out if Fincher had directed it.
Look for Elias Koteas' eerie performance as Reese early on in the film. He is convincingly creepy as a serial killer taken over by a demon. Washington, like always, is great onscreen. He has a commanding onscreen presence. And though John Goodman has a supporting role, he takes the role all the way and is a joy to see onscreen.
Worth mentioning is a chase sequence in the middle of the film between Azazel and Gretta that is pretty exciting and will cause you to scoot to the edge of your seat. This chase sequence is ingenious and if I say anything more, it’ll spoil the chase for you.
The end of the film has a big twist and for me it was a well-deserved twist, but I’m afraid that it is so big that some audience members might be disappointed. Kudos to Hoblit for keeping such a twist in the film.
The music by Tan Dun is strange, creepy, and works really well with the film. The score is filled with high strings and is somewhat hard to describe, but it does work really well.
The only thing that bothered me about the film was its running time. It doesn’t excessively run too long, but it does feel a bit on the long side. The film could have benefited from a few cuts to tighten it up. But, this is not a big deal.
Fallen works very well as a film that smashes two very different genres together. The last film that did this was Devil’s Advocate. Though Devil’s Advocate works a bit better than Fallen, Fallen is a great film to spend two hours with. If you have time, catch Fallen in the theatres. If not, catch it on video.