Saturday, 15 June 2013

Dark Review - The Number 23

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Review of the film The Number 23 

By Casey Douglass 

 

Numbers can be tricky things. When we are children, they baffle us, when we are grown up, they help us keep track of our finances, and when we grow old, they may baffle us again unless we are lucky and hold onto some of our mental ability. Sadly, for animal control officer Walter Sparrow (Carrey) the number 23 becomes bothersome in a more unusual way. It hounds him and follows him. Everything he notices evolves or devolves to 23.

The decline in his mental state starts after a strange dog attack which makes Walter late for meeting his wife Agatha (Madsen). This gives her time to buy him a tatty old book from a second-hand bookshop titled “The Number 23, A novel of Obsession by Topsy Kretts.” Walter is sceptical that it will hold anything more than his passing interest, but soon finds himself devouring the book, mainly due to it seeming to incorporate some aspects of his past, such as his favourite book as a child, featuring “Fingerling” the adopted name of the character in the book. Fingerling is a detective who leads a dark and troubled life, although believes himself to be a good person. Walter imagines himself as Fingerling as if he were seeing the events transpiring through the detective’s own eyes.

The number 23 begins to rear its head more and more, with Walter beginning to doubt his own perceptions, troubled by murderous dreams, and wary of the similarities repeatedly thrown in his face by the book and his own life. To be clich├ęd, things come to a head, but it’s hard to say more about the events of the film without spoiling the story, so I won’t.
The film is filmed in two styles. There are the usual, everyday scenes with Walter and his family or anything that could be called his mundane life. The other scenes are the Fingerling detective scenes, which are shot in minimal colour and take on a very Noir aspect, the streaks of blood or the grey-scale shots of Fingerling’s pained expression on finding yet another body. This works very well and as the film progresses, they muddy into the more mundane reality in a disconcerting way.

Carrey is very good in this serious role. I didn’t expect him to be good at portraying a troubled and conflicted character, or should that be a fully mature adult who doesn’t crack jokes every few minutes. It was a pleasant surprise upon seeing it at the cinema and it still holds true with subsequent re-watching. The other cast members do their job and provide believable foils to bounce his increasing madness off, but Carrey is very much the star.

I rate this film highly because it is skilfully done and takes a good stab at portraying how obsession might develop in someone. If you like noir-esque mystery films with strange books and creepy synchronicities, The Number 23 won’t disappoint. Now if you go back and count the number of lines of this review…they don’t come to 23, sorry to disappoint.

Rating: 5/5

This review can also be on Generic Movie Blog UK here.

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