Review: A Simple Plan (1998)

Sam Raimi delivers a movie quite unlike the rest of his work!

Screenplay By: Scott B. Smith
Directed By: Sam Raimi

Bill Paxton is so boss in A Simple Plan. Yes, I am going with the phrase boss to describe Mr. Paxton’s performance. The truth is that Mr. Paxton has always been a rock solid performer, able and willing to breathe life into many different characters. At the same time there is an odd streak to Mr. Paxton, and that serves him well in A Simple Plan. Paired up with Billy Bob Thornton, who gives an equally chilling and affecting performance, Mr. Paxton is a tour de force in A Simple Plan. All movie long it is Mr. Paxton’s Hank who realizes that nothing is simple about what has fallen into these characters laps.

As the suspense builds and the tension mounts it is clear that Hank is the only one who understands the immensity of what is transpiring. It’s just as clear that he is in over his head and has absolutely no control over the situation or anyone around him. Hank was once a genuinely good man, and that goodness is still inside of him. The situation he has placed himself in is eating away at his goodness and twisting his actions beyond anything he can control. All of the characters in Sam Raimi’s film are effected by the introduction of a foreign, and completely unattainable to them, substance. They can not grasp what is in front of them and thus they take every wrong step imaginable as they try to deal with such a looming presence now being in their lives.

Mr. Raimi is behind the wheel of A Simple Plan and it is a film unlike anything else I have ever seen from him. I enjoy just about all of Mr. Raimi’s work, but I’ve never seen him tackle a film in such a restrained manner. The tone of A Simple Plan is plaintive, the mood is somber, and the pace is cautious. The camera starts from afar and moves in close, showing the largeness of the world around these people and how small they feel within said world. The foreign substance is treated exactly as I stated, as an entity that does not belong in their world. The camera can never just glance at the substance, it has to linger on it and highlight how out of place it is in this world.

The Coen Brothers, Ethan & Joel, helped Mr. Raimi with A Simple Plan. The use of the blindingly white snow and the slowness of the pacing is very reminiscent of Fargo. But, A Simple Plan is still very much a Sam Raimi film. It is different from the rest of his work, yet it still bears elements that can be found in many of his other films. The way he frames violence, the way he creates tension in the scenes where characters are arguing, these are but a couple of elements that hold true across the sum of Mr. Raimi’s work.

A Simple Plan is tense and taut, a thriller and suspense film of the highest order. I knew throughout A Simple Plan that things were going to go badly, that these characters would not leave the film the same as when they entered it. Yet, I never found the film predictable, and I found that as the film progressed the tension and the suspense grew as thick as ham soup. It’s not his usual style, but A Simple Plan is another great film from Sam Raimi, and a crime thriller that deserves to be seen by all fans of great crime thrillers.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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6 responses to “Review: A Simple Plan (1998)

  1. The winter landscape really lends itself to the cold atmosphere of the movie.

  2. Indeed, and it’s one of the few movies that manages to make its coldness feel tangible.

  3. Probably the best performances by either Paxton or Thornton. I haven’t watched this film in a quite a while but it still sticks with me. Very effective, very sad.

  4. The film does have an overriding sadness to it, an element that I was not expecting.

  5. I liked this, but didn’t love it. I thought the ending was pretty apparent, so it felt to me like the film took a little too long to get there.

  6. Maybe it was just me, but the ending never felt apparent to me. I had a feeling that a confrontation would mark the ending, but I didn’t expect it to go the way it did.

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