Frantic [1988]

Living in exile in Paris after eluding a controversial charge of statutory rape in America, director Roman Polanski seemed professionally adrift during the 1980s, making only one film (the ill-fated Pirates) between 1979 and 1988. Then Polanski found inspiration--and a major star in Harrison Ford--to make Frantic, a thriller that played directly into Polanski's gift for creating an atmosphere of mystery, dread, escalating suspense, and uncertain fate. Set in Paris (Polanski couldn't go to Hollywood, so Hollywood came to him), the story begins when an American heart surgeon (Ford) arrives in the City of Lights with his wife (Betty Buckley) for a medical convention. They check into a posh hotel, and in a brilliantly directed scene, Ford takes a shower and emerges to find that his wife has vanished. This mysterious disappearance--and a confusion between two identical pieces of luggage--leads Ford into the Paris underground and a plot that grows increasingly dangerous as he approaches the truth of his wife's disappearance. The plot gets too complicated, and the pace drops off in the cluttered second half, but in Polanski's capable hands the film is blessed with moments of heightened suspense in the tradition of classic thrillers. --Jeff Shannon

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