Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Somebody or something is stealing the children of Cold Rock Washington, and they've given this something a name… The Tall Man.  It's also the name of this movie directed by Pascal Laguier, one often labeled as a horror thriller when more accurately it's more of a drama that ends with a discussion on the politics of class.

If this movie does one thing well, it sure makes the mythical town of Cold Rock Washington one helluva miserable place to live.  A young girl is narrating the piece, describing to us how her town is dying and what a hell hole it is, but that was unnecessary to be honest with you because I didn't need her help to see this.  That aside, we'll be spending some quality time with Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) here at Cold Rock, a widowed nurse who has been tending to the townsfolk ever since her husband, the town doctor, passed away.  On this particular day Julia is delivering the baby of a young Carol (Katherine Ramdeen), daughter of the deliciously trashy Tracy (Samantha Ferris) and older sister to the adorably cute but mute Jenny (Jodelle Ferland).  Thing is the father of this baby seems to be Tracy's boyfriend Steven (Teach Grant) which you would think would grant Steven a sound reprimand from his girlfriend but apparently live-in boyfriends knocking up family members is commonplace in Cold Rock.

After a hard day's work, Julia likes to come home to play her young son David (Jakob Davies) and unwind a bit… but the specter of The Tall Man is never far behind.  In fact, it looks like The Tall Man has paid the young mother a visit and now David has been taken with Julia desperate to get him back, no matter what. 
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Now here's where things get a little weird.  Julia had a really rough night trying to get David back, being dragged along by truck, getting into a car accident, and attacked by a vicious German shepherd all before collapsing on a cold street, with her child still nowhere to be found.  Eventually she's picked up by the G-man investigating the case (Stephen McHattie) and taken to the local diner… which in itself was curious since the woman obviously needed to be taken to a hospital… but the folks in the diner are staring at her real strange-like.  I mean it looks like the town of Cold Rock might be in on the taking of these children and things are looking a little ritualistic around here.  Or not. 

Whatever is going on, Julia is going to risk everything to get her son back… though… as is often the case in these things… all isn't what it appears.

While the overall, bottom line product of 'The Tall Man' does leave a little to be desired, basically crumbling under just a little bit of post-movie scrutiny, Pascal Laguier's film does have some rock solid elements working in its favor.  Let's start with the oppressive atmosphere that we mentioned earlier because the director did a great job in making Cold Rock someplace we really didn't want to be.  It's dark, it's gray, it's cold, and the place looks completely hopeless, a place where nothing can grow, which I imagine was kind of the point.  Then let us add to this a very fine performance from Jessica Biel who did her best to look as plain as humanly possible, and even without makeup we're not completely sure she pulled this off, but her performance was critical in keeping the audience off balance for whatever was going to revealed to us later on, and she hid her hand exceptionally well.  And while the story itself might be a little on the ridiculous side as it ultimately played itself out, I do have to hand it to the director in that it did keep you guessing and on your toes pretty much to the very end as to what was going on.  And, unlike some movies that we've seen recently, it explains pretty clearly what was going on.

Oh… but it is what was revealed to us is where 'The Tall Man' skidded off the tracks.  Without giving anything away I have to think that if children are systematically being stolen from a single community over a period of, I don't know, two years… I would imagine that more than one downtrodden agent would be dispatched to investigate this atrocity.  Now considering this is a movie about the benefits of class, it's thrown out there that nobody cares because these kids are poor, but as an argument that's too simplistic. 

Again, without giving thing away because it's pretty important that nobody spoil this for you if you choose to watch it since spoilerage would pretty much negate any reason to really watch it, once we do get to the reveal and you are forced to play over what you have just seen in your mind's eye, this is when even the most basic things stop making sense.  And we'll just let it go at that.  You do have the option of not replaying these events in your mind and simply walking away, stunned at the reveal, but the film doesn't move fast enough to warrant this so you almost have no choice in the matter.

Regardless, 'The Tall Man' isn't without merit as it has some solid elements holding it up.  But as far as the narrative is concerned, considering where the story was going, I can't think of any kind of logical fix for it because it's built in.  No wiggle room.  We're stuck with it, and this would be the ultimate downfall for a film with a lot going for it.
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