Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

This will be a difficult film to adequately review because the narrative is so tied into it’s misdirection with so many twists and turns, any reviewer has to be very careful not to reveal anything to their reading audience.  Nonetheless, in ‘Five Fingers’ we are introduced to Martjin (Ryan Phillippe) lovingly playing his piano.  A conscientious, idealistic Dutchman who is preparing to travel to his girlfriend Saadia’s (Touriya Haoud) native land of Morocco to implement a very important food program.  It can be dangerous for blonde haired blue eyed Dutchmen roaming around Muslim lands however altruistic his intentions may be, so Martjin hires a callous Englishman named Gavin (Colm Meaney) to act as his guide since he is familiar with the layout of the land.

Soon after they arrive, the two men are abducted in broad day light off of their tour bus and drugged.  When they wake up, they are both blindfolded in a warehouse.  Martjin is scared out his wits but Gavin is indignant, though neither man, we are led to believe has any clue on why they were taken.  In the background we see a no-named man (Laurence Fishburne) dressed in the traditional Muslim dishdash topped with a kufi observing the conversation of the blindfolded men.  Soon something not so good happens to Gavin for a de-blindfolded Martjin to view letting him know he’s in a world of trouble.  Our man with no name wants information, convinced that Martjin is a CIA operative sent to destroy his people.  Martjin, on the other hand, appears absolutely clueless, unable to tell the man anything, even when his captors systematically and brutally begin removing what is most precious to anyone who plays the piano, or picks their nose for that matter.  But then, maybe Martjin does know more than he’s letting on.  Only time, and more fingers, will tell.

‘Five Fingers’ plays out in theme, atmosphere, and tone similar to the Jeff Bridges film ‘Arlington Road’ some years ago where a man is led down a twisted path into a direction he never imagined.  Though ‘Five Fingers’ doesn’t have the same scope as did ‘Arlington Road’ it was equally effective conveying the confusion of the main character.  Director Laurence Malkin carefully allowed clues to meticulously drip from the characters lips that by the time it gets to the climax, you’re not quite sure who’s telling the truth and whom you should believe. 

‘Five Fingers’ also plays out a like a stage play, and may have been written originally for that medium.  The vast majority of the action takes place in one location, usually between the Laurence Fishburne and Ryan Phillippe characters or with Phillippe playing off Mrs. Laurence Fishbune, Gina Torres, who plays a Muslim nurse maid hired to bandage his wounds. 

I’m certain Phillippe takes these challenging, unromantic roles in an attempt to further distance himself from his Tiger Beat poster boy status, plus the man is over thirty and playing shallow college students is probably getting a bit old.  I imagine his next roles will probably consist of pimps, child molesters and drug abusers.  For the most part, he very effective in this role, with one never doubting his characters sincerity and garnering true sympathy for a man who may, or may not be a victim of mistaken identity.  His Dutch accent does fade in out a bit, even though that’s explained out since his unnamed captor surmises his good English certainly makes him a CIA operative.

Laurence Fishburne’s Arabic accent, however, never fades or wavers.  Fishburne (who also produces) is a talented, veteran actor and his unnamed villain is at the same time disarmingly polite and lethally dangerous.  The film belongs to Phillippe, but it goes nowhere without Fishburne’s menace driving the narrative.

The ending, I believe, is very shocking and also very logical in its presentation.  There are reasons given for what happens which may be slightly over the top and may be an attempt to manipulate the audience from one side to another, but it does ask you to examine yourself and choose a side.  Some may find the justification a no-brainer, and some may struggle with it some, and the situation is very topical to the moment.  Do the means justify the end?  That is the question in a nutshell.

A well done, tight, taut, claustrophobic little thriller that asks a few tough questions for its audience that could have easily been dull and boring were it not handled so well.  I doubt this fascinating film will find much of an audience, and it’s not for the squeamish, but in a sea trash I think most will find this little pearl something worth watching.

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