Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I slip this disk ‘Incendiary’ into the DVD player having almost no knowledge of what it’s about but it does have Ewan McGregor, Michelle Williams and Matthew MacFadyen in it so I’m thinking it must pretty good. Even when I found out that Matthew MacFadyen wasn’t Angus MacFadyen who I thought was actually in this movie. They aren’t the same person those two. Anyway it starts out with some soft sappy piano music which concerns me some since I’m thinking a movie with a title like ‘Incendiary’ wouldn’t be a love story, and this is followed up by Ms. Williams, affecting a British accent, talking about how much she loves her child. So now I’m thinking I’m watching a sweet family movie, still somewhat curious what Incendiary might represent. Next thing I know Michelle Williams is buck ass naked bent over couch while Ewan McGregor is having his way with the woman. Mind you the last time I saw Ewan McGregor in a movie he was having fake sex with Michelle Williams in the completely absurd movie ‘Deception’ which I would imagine is good work if you can get it. Where can a brother apply? Next thing I know stuff starts blowing up while Ewan is knocking the bottom out and again I’m wondering what the hell this movie is about. Well… now I know what the movie is about. It is a heavy handed, extremely manipulative, overly sentimental slice of tripe that does its darndest to force an emotional response. A movie that probably should’ve called itself ‘Letter to Osama’ which is basically what this melodrama is all about.

Anyway Ms. Williams is a young mother with an asshole for a husband (Nicholas Gleaves) who defuses bombs for a living, a job which makes the man physically ill and makes him say mean things to his super cute sixty five pound wife. She also has the world’s most adorable little boy (Sidney Johnston) who upon spending just a little bit of time with in this film you realize that the kid is far too adorable not to die. Because her husband is such a jerk we don’t mind so much that the woman allows herself to be

picked up by a womanizing, fancy car driving reporter (McGregor) who we can see has had his share of women, but apparently he’s never had anything quite like what this woman was dishing out because he’s completely hooked. Unfortunately during that spirited afternoon tryst we spoke of earlier, some evil terrorist dudes blew up the soccer stadium that her husband and her boy happened to be at that afternoon. No more husband, no more boy, and tons of guilt.

Now the movie splits in three. On one level we have the young mother trying desperately to deal with her guilt in a number of ways, including an attempt of complete insanity. We observe the reporter uncovering some kind of cover up about the bombing, while still pursuing this woman he’s hooked on, and we have the woman’s dead husband boss (MacFadyen) who may be involved in this cover up that the reporter is uncovering, but is also declaring undying love for this woman. She may be slight in build but she obviously knows how to use what little she has to maximum effect, this woman. And then there’s the running letter she is writing to Osama Bin Laden.

I’ll say one thing about this movie written and directed by Sharon Maguire, it did have the best of intentions. Michelle Williams gives a good performance as the good mother / slutty wife / mental patient / terrorism is bad sermonizer. The movie at times is interesting and the first twenty or so minutes are setup very well but soon thereafter the director pulls out her sledgehammer and starts beating you over the head with forced emotion. I’m thinking one of the reasons this emotion was being forced down your throat is because the movie is trying to cover so much ground in its ninety minute running time that it just didn’t have the time to allow the narrative to flow naturally. Since the film is based on a novel I’m sure the book has more clarity in relation to the films different elements, but the conspiracy angle is undercooked and either needed more time spent on it, or it needed to be completely excised. Then there was the love triangle, in particular Matthew MacFadyen’s incessant whining which was particularly annoying, though there was a nice scene between MacFadyen and McGregor in relation to their thin object of desire, a scene that followed another branching story storyline involving the woman and the child of one the terrorist. But the biggest offender in Maguire’s attempt to wring every single tear from your eye was the open letter to Osama Bin Laden which didn’t come off as the least bit genuine, instead presenting itself as what it was, that being a blatantly staged device designed to elicit some kind of emotional response. I can be as emotional as the next guy but it does take a little more subtlety to squeeze that kind of emotion out of me and this was about as heavy handed as it gets.

Like I said, the effort was admirable and the message the film was attempting to convey is obviously a good one, that being blowing up people is a bad thing, but the delivery of this message is clunky and overbearing and in desperate need of a softer hand.

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