The Forgotten borrows from many of its predecessors, but once the film grabs its audience, it’s difficult to even notice some of the obvious clichÃ©s. The film delivers the chills and frights without falling into any of the usual horror pitfalls.
The Forgotten shines with the unexpected. In most suspense movies, the audience is warned of the surprise coming — music creeps in, a scary shadow moves along the wall. Most often the heroine is climbing a flight of stairs or opening a creaky door; everyone knows the killer is hiding out of sight. With The Forgotten, many times there is nothing to alert the audience when something big is about to happen.
Because of the element of surprise and the care that obviously went into it, The Forgotten is a pleasure to watch. Scenes have been crafted so well that it is easy to be molded into the perfect audience by director Joseph Ruben (The Good Son). The shots are clean, the actors hit their marks perfectly, and everything begins to flow. Ruben times everything so carefully that it’s almost impossible to predict what is going to happen through the course of the movie.
Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) lost her son, this much is clear when The Forgotten begins. She’s never gotten over it; she keeps his things in a drawer and takes them out every day. Her life is centered around the memories and the pictures she has kept close.
Telly husband, Jim (Anthony Edwards) is completely unconcerned. He believes his wife is crazy and insists they never had a son. Telly is sure that a patient at a psychiatrist office she visits Ash Correll (Dominic West) has also lost a child. She has to convince Ash of her sanity and convinces him to help her find their children.
Moore gives Telly a certainty that makes it hard to tell whether or not she is sane or not. Moore’s acting is up to par with her former roles in Hannibal and Magnolia. She is also physically prepared for the role — Telly is perpetually fleeing throughout the course of the movie. West is the reluctant, semi-romantic hero. He’s the perfect foil to Telly. Ash doesn’t know how to begin or where to go for help — West knows exactly when to step back so Moore can take the lead.
Gary Sinise and Alfre Woodard round out the cast and further add to the confusion. Sinise is subtle as Telly’s psychiatrist. He’s working to persuade her that her son is simply a delusion she has to deny. Woodard plays the detective who thinks she might be telling the truth.
The Forgotten isn’t new territory. Much of the storyline resembles Dark City, where a sinister presence comes at night to steal humanity’s memories, only to replace them in the morning. Like Identity, it becomes difficult to determine who is trying to help Telly and who has ulterior motives. However, once immersed in the world of The Forgotten, it becomes impossible to see it as clichÃ©d.
The Forgotten is a smart thriller that, despite a few too many lifted ideas, is salvaged by insightful direction and strong performances from its cast.