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DVD Review

DVD cover

The X-Files
I Want to Believe
(2-Disc Director’s Cut)


Starring: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson
20th Century Fox
RRP: £22.99
Certificate: 15
Available 24 November 2008

In the bitter heart of a brutal winter, a female FBI agent is abducted in rural Virginia. The only clues to her disappearance are some grotesque human remains and the strange and disturbing visions of a disgraced priest. Are the images haunting this fallen man of God to be believed, or are they the deadly lies of a twisted mind? It is a case right out of the X-Files - but the bureau suspended its investigations into the paranormal years ago. Former agents Fox Mulder and Dr Dana Scully are the best team for the job, but they have no desire to revisit the past. Still, the truth about these horrific crimes is out there, and only Mulder and Scully can uncover it...

Unlike many reviewers, I rather enjoyed I Want to Believe when I saw it at the cinema, though it does seem more at home on the TV screen. Smaller in scope than the previous X-Files movie, it isn’t necessarily a better film than its predecessor, though it’s certainly a more accessible one. Unlike the first movie, which necessitated familiarity with such recurring concepts as the Cigarette Smoking Man and his fellow conspirators, this one requires no prior knowledge of the series. True, most viewers will have at least heard of the show, but even if you didn’t know who Mulder (David Duchovny) or Scully (Gillian Anderson) are, what work they used to do at the FBI, and what happened to Mulder’s sister, everything is explained in the dialogue.

There are still little touches here and there for the exclusive enjoyment of loyal fans, though they don’t intrude upon the plot. There’s Mulder’s continuing love of sunflower seeds; the pencils embedded in his ceiling; the poster on his wall that lends its slogan to the movie’s title; his fish tank with the little model diver in it; and the names of various backstage personnel who played pivotal roles in the success of the television series, which appear on buildings and on Mulder’s cell-phone screen.

There’s even a brief appearance by a popular recurring character from the show. I won’t say which one, in case it spoils it for you, except that it isn’t John Doggett or Monica Reyes - which is a bit of a shame considering how these characters and the actors who played them helped the series to continue during its last couple of years on screen. In the audio commentary, featuring creator/co-writer/director Chris Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz, Carter apologises to the actors whose roles he couldn’t fit into the movie.

Fulfilling a similar function to Doggett and Reyes as “new agents on the block” are Amanda Peet (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) as Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dakota Whitney and rapper Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner (Pimp My Ride) as Agent Mosley Drummy. Peet manages to walk a convincing line between doubt and faith, but Joiner gets little to do except spout disbelief, which rapidly becomes repetitive and tiresome.

Meanwhile, the two leads slip back into their roles with apparent ease (I say “apparent”, because in interviews Duchovny and Anderson admit that it took them some time to get back in touch with their characters). Mulder is still the sarcastic and cynical one, despite being the believer (some particularly black humour comes from his lips), while Scully remains sceptical yet caring.

When this film was made, it had been six years since the TV show had ended, and a decade since the last movie. The passage of time is reflected in the plot: it is revealed that Mulder and Scully quit the FBI several years ago, the former in disgrace. Since then, Mulder has been hiding out in isolation while Scully has been practising medicine. It is implied, therefore, that neither of them has been involved in paranormal adventures in the interim. It is not made clear whether the pair have maintained a relationship during this time: some evidence (such as Scully’s reference to not “coming home”) suggests that they have, while other clues (such as her comment about Mulder’s beard, which sounds as if she isn’t used to it) seem to indicate that they haven’t (though this is clarified in the novelisation).

While definitely not a “mythology” storyline, as the previous film was, the plot of I Want to Believe doesn’t truly fall into the “monster of the week” category either, but is rather a “phenomenon of the week”, in this case psychic powers. The subject of supernatural visions relating to violent crimes has been covered in the series many times before, accompanied by the question of whether such insights can be trusted or whether it means that the “psychic” is actually in league with the criminal(s). That question is made all the more vexing here by the fact that Father Joe Crissman (Billy Connolly) is a convicted paedophile, a revelation that manages to make Scully’s renewed scepticism plausible. Crissman could easily have been an entirely repellent character, but, thanks largely to Connolly’s performance, he is also a strangely compelling one.

Carter has indicated that he wants this film to “scare the pants off people”. However, this is not a horror movie as such, but rather a paranormal crime thriller, though there are some disturbing scenes. Once again, The X-Files steps into Silence of the Lambs territory with its depiction of the abduction and captivity of women.

The director’s cut of the film contains a few scenes that were not present in the theatrical release. I failed to spot them, but the audio commentary helpfully points them out. Three deleted scenes that remain absent from this edition are presented as separate items on Disc 1.

Though it doesn’t boast all the interactive features of the Blu-ray release, Disc 2 does contain nearly two hours of documentaries, including a three-part 85-minute “making of” and a decidedly gruesome eight-minute investigation of special make-up effects, including fake human organs and cadavers (ugh). There’s also a gag reel, photo galleries, theatrical trailers (both domestic and international, which give the misleading impression that strange lights in the sky might have some bearing upon the plot) and a digital copy of the film for playback on portable media players (though, as I’m a little backward in the technology department and don’t own such a device, I wasn’t able to test this feature).

Whether you catch the one- or two-disc DVD or Blu-ray release, I’d like to believe that you’ll enjoy this movie. Just make sure you keep watching until the end of the closing credits...


Richard McGinlay

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