The TV series "The Twilight Zone" is a classic show that never ages. Its shocks, jolts and twist endings still reverberate in this age of special-effect-driven entertainment.
Julianne Moore stars in "The Forgotten," which opened Friday. (Sony)
Rod Serling's influence has reached beyond television to the movies. M. Night Shyamalan readily admits his storytelling style comes from his fondness for "The Twilight Zone." It would seem that Joseph Ruben, director of "The Forgotten," wants us to see that influence too.
In the movie, Julianne Moore plays Telly Paretta, a mother grieving for the son she lost in a plane crash 14 months earlier. She sees a psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) on a regular basis, but no technique or pill seems able to ease her suffering.
Things begin to change, however, when photos and videos of her son begin disappearing. Telly believes the changes are her husband's (Anthony Edwards) cruel means of getting her to move on. But there is more afoot here.
Telly begins to believe that someone has abducted her son. She goes to a neighbor, who had a daughter on the same plane, and asks if he remembers her son and his daughter. Neighbor Ash (Dominic West) is a lush who says he never had a daughter, though his drinking seems to hide some buried wound. Telly forces the memory of a daughter from Ash, and the movie shifts away from grief toward anger at an unknown force at work.
The National Security Agency takes an interest in Telly and her dead son. The NSA tries to stop her, but she and Ash go on the lam, trying to piece together what happened to their children. In the middle of all this is a mysterious man who always appears when Telly and Ash verge on a discovery. To tell too much more would reveal the ending.
"The Forgotten" has a strong opening act, but it begins to sputter and falter as it moves to the second. By the time it gets to the final act, it has run out of gas. Its ending is as nebulous as the beginning, with no real satisfaction. There are more questions than answers.
"The Forgotten" follows in the line of movies leading us to distrust the government. The trend portrays a government without intelligence or wisdom. The agents in the movie are part of a conspiracy they are powerless to stop, and all those in authority are seen as hapless and easily given over to the power behind the abduction. No one but Telly has any guts to stand up.
The writer, Gerald DiPego, wants us to see Telly as a biblical Hannah, who asked the Lord for her Samuel and would not let the forces of darkness have him. Telly's belief that there is more going on than just a tragic plane crash is what drives her and the story. It is a powerful metaphor that gets muddled in its execution.
"The Forgotten" wants to bring chills like those of "The Twilight Zone." Rod Serling once said that the writer "can only stamp his images as forcibly on the page, in proportion, as he has forcibly felt, ardently nursed, and long brooded over them."
And this is why "The Forgotten" fails. It has forgotten to forcibly feel, ardently nurse, and long brood over its words. Therefore, the images fall flat on our eyes, and we end up not being moved by a good idea for a story.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense thematic material, some violence and brief language.
Director: Joseph Ruben
Writer: Gerald DiPego
Cast: Telly Paretta: Julianne Moore; Jim Paretta: Anthony Edwards; Dr. Munce: Gary Sinise; Ash Correll: Dominic West; Det. Pope: Alfre Woodard.
The movie's official Web site is here.