Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe To Empire!
Get 12 issues from just £25
A perfect night in with EE
Win £200 to spend on the perfect night in
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Bill Paxton
Billy Bob Thornton
Bridget Fonda.
Directors
Sam Raimi.
Screenwriters
Scott B Smith.
Running Time
121 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Sixteen
3 Star Empire Rating
Broken Horses
3 Star Empire Rating
Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story Of Dream Alliance
3 Star Empire Rating
Jauja
4 Star Empire Rating
Exit
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Still Alice
5 Star Empire Rating
Les Miserables
5 Star Empire Rating
Duke Of Burgundy, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Whiplash
5 Star Empire Rating
EMPIRE ESSAY: When Harry Met Sally
5 Star Empire Rating

A Simple Plan
Gripping snowbound thriller by Sam Raimi.


submit to reddit


Plot
Two brothers are driven to murder by the lure of stolen cash.


Review
Scott B. Smith's debut novel - which he has adapted for the screen - bears a jacket recommendation from no less than Stephen King ("The best suspense novel of this year"), and it's easy to see why it tickled the great man's fancy. It may not deal in the supernatural but A Simple Plan bears many King parallels with its domestic tale of smalltown equilibrium shattered by an unexpected event. Of all King's stories, A Simple Plan most readily conjures Misery, largely because it's also set in the snowy Midwest, specifically Minnesota - in other words, Fargo country. That it compares favourably with both those films gives you a clue how good it is.

A simple story: the Mitchell brothers, Hank (Paxton) and Jacob (Thornton), are thankfully nothing like their Albert Square namesakes - one is an unassuming, happily-married mill worker, the other a funny-looking simpleton and virgin ("We don't have one thing in common except maybe our last name"). When they stumble upon a crashed plane in the woods with Jacob's buddy Lou (Brent Briscoe), their lives change forever, for inside is a duffel bag containing $4 million cash. The pilot is dead - his eyes forebodingly pecked out by crows - so the three conspire to keep the money until the snow thaws, and then share it out. In covering their tracks, Jacob makes a string of blunders and Hank's Lady Macbeth-like pregnant wife Sarah (Fonda) pushes him deeper and deeper into trouble, involving blackmail, lies and, you guessed it, murder.

Director Raimi apparently received coaching from his pals Joel and Ethan Coen about how best to work in snow, and it figures. A Simple Plan is more than just staged in wintertime, its narrative is deeply embedded in the unyielding drifts: the agonising wait until spring serves to hammer dissensions within the fraternal pact, and yet in masking the accidental conspirators' footprints, the weather also becomes an accomplice. Meanwhile, it gives Raimi a stunning, graphic backdrop against which to play his economical psychodrama; although characterised by acrobatic camerawork in the Evil Dead films and others, A Simple Plan sees the director maturing, and pulling off a remarkably impressive character piece. Which is where Paxton and Thornton come in: the former overcoming a previous blandness (and the fact that he resembles Jack Dee) with a powerful turn as the Minnesotan Macbeth, subtly countered by perhaps Thornton's most three-dimensional hick shtick to date.

As the kind-hearted, guilt-ridden dimwit, he becomes Hank's conscience ("Do you ever feel evil?"), and never plays the part for facile sympathy. Little wonder he's been Golden Globe-nominated and honoured by the LA Film Critics Association for his role (and with those sticky-out teeth, too).

Although the simple plan itself spirals out of control and becomes complicated, this remains a simple, modest film: chilly, engrossing and human. Some of the novel's unpleasantness has been pruned for the screen and wisely so, allowing greater scope for the brothers' uneven relationship to develop (there's a touching scene in which Hank talks Jacob to sleep with soothing memories of their father and we realise that murder has actually brought them closer together). Shallow Grave will inevitably spring to mind, as will The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, but the film's emphasis on setting, performance and Shakespearean symbolism put it on another shelf entirely.


Verdict
A very special and uncompromising piece of work. Wrap up warm.


Reviewed by Andrew Collins

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Empire's Fast & Furious 7 Review
We run the rule on the return of Toretto, Hobbs and co

Empire Meets Alison Brie
The Get Hard star on Ken Jeong, Toto and her favourite episode of Community

17 ‘What The?’ TV Cameos From Film Directors
From Spike Jonze as a music exec to Peter Bogdanovich as… himself?

Empire Meets Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
On A Second Chance, Game Of Thrones pranks and Headhunters' poo scene

The Secrets Behind 44 Classic Cinema Sound Effects
No really, the Ringwraiths are actually plastic cups...

The 30 Greatest Superhero Movies Of All Time
Empire readers pick their top super flicks

10 Videos Every Tom Hanks Fan Should Have Watched By Now
Of course, everyone in the world is a Tom Hanks fan…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)