Review by Kim Hollis
October 15, 2002
Before you die, you see The Ring.
Such is the premise behind this very stylish thriller from director Gore Verbinski, who recovers nicely here from The Mexican, a blah film that is barely even memorable. Ehren Kruger's screenplay is based on a Japanese novel and film that was so popular that it grew into a trilogy. Here's hoping a similar fate is in store for the American remake.
As we learn at the beginning of the movie, The Ring is one of a number of intense, shadowy images that people see on a videotape that is somehow circulating. Once an individual sees the tape, they get a phone call informing them that they have seven days until they die.
Reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) gets wrapped up in the intrigue after learning her niece died under just such circumstances. She gets a hold of the supposedly lethal tape and begins her investigation into her niece's death, putting both herself and her loved ones in jeopardy.
To reveal much more of the plot would really spoil the film, but in the interest of fair play to fans of specific genres, I will say that this is much more of a straight thriller/mystery than it is a horror film, though it does have some suspenseful and frightening moments. Probably the best comparison movie is The Others, as both are wonderfully paced, moody and tense, with terrific acting performances as well as some stunning cinematography and direction.
Leading the troupe is Watts, coming off last year's critically acclaimed performance in Mulholland Drive. Her growing fear as the movie progresses is quite palpable, and in a year where few female performances deserve recognition, hers stands out as exceptional. Taking on the Haley Joel Osment-precocious-child role is Culkin look-alike David Dorfman, who plays Rachel's son Aidan. This young man deserves credit for running with the part, making it almost easy to believe that he is a tiny little man rather than a young boy. In one particular scene, he is knotting his tie in the mirror as his mother looks for a dress, helping him to show a singular maturity rarely evident in actors of such a young age.
Rounding out the fine cast are Martin Henderson as Noah, Rachel's ex, Brian Cox and Daveigh Chase. Cox and Chase are particularly noteworthy here, with both actors taking relatively small parts and making them stand out. Chase especially makes an impression, with her unique look and menacing-yet-innocent countenance. Honestly, it's a bit disconcerting to realize that she is the voice of the adorable Lilo (of Disney's summer animated hit Lilo & Stitch), because her role in The Ring is such a polar opposite.
Credit Verbinski for being able to draw such remarkable performances from this group, particularly because a number of the cast members are young and essentially unknown up to this point. Along with that, he has created a creepy and sometimes petrifying world inside his videotape, one that sometimes coincides with real life.
If there is a fault to the film, it is that not enough pieces of the puzzle are revealed to make the final payoff completely satisfying. Though anyone who understands that The Ring is ideally a set-up to both a sequel and a prequel will understand that more will be revealed in the forthcoming movies, audiences who are unaware of those plans will certainly find themselves longing for something more.
Even so, the filmmakers have done a fine job of building the plot slowly to a logical, though disturbing, climax, and the deficiencies of detail don't detract from what is ultimately a fun and suspenseful ride.