Godsend (2004)
By: David Michael Brown on January 14, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Universal (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. 100 minutes
The Movie
Director: Nick Hamm
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Robert De Niro, Cameron Bright
Screenplay: Mark Bomback
Country: USA
Why oh why does Robert De Niro keep appearing in films like Godsend? His performances in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Once Upon a Time in America are the stuff of legend but recently he seems happy to waste his talents with rubbish like Rocky and Bullwinkle. Yes, he's great in Meet the Fockers but that's a rare occurrence these days.

We've seen the story a million times before; Paul and Jessie Duncan's Idyllic family life is shattered when their small child Adam is killed in a freak car accident. Distraught with sadness they meet a strange doctor from the Godsend Institute who offers them a way out; Cloning. Problem is the process isn't quite up to scratch and the cherubic son's clone is soon giving Damien the Anti-Christ a run for his devilish money.

As Adam mark two grows older he begins to have nightmares where he sees himself burning down a school. These visions get more vivid as Adams behaviour gets stranger and stranger. His parents begin to think that maybe his past life is revisiting his new one but soon realise that a boy named Zachary possesses their son, a boy who had burnt his classmates to death. But how did this happen? Only Dr Wells has the answer.

The performances are typical for a major studio stab at a horror film. Rebecca Romijn Stamos of X- Men and Femme Fatale fame is fine as Jessie but Greg Kinnear and De- Niro are wasted as Paul and Dr. Wells. Kinnear tries hard but De Niro appears to be sleepwalking. Cameron Bright playing Adam gives the best performance in the film.

The film uses every cliché in the book; the disused shed straight from Crystal Lake (complete with rusty axes hanging on the walls), flash backs, dead people in the bath scenes, creepy children in school corridors. Director Hamm tries hard to lend his film some gravitas but unfortunately the symbolism comes across as ham-fisted and heavy handed.

The film's denouement, as we flashback to the Zachery's life with Adam's demented nanny and the death of his mother is frankly ridiculous and extremely predictable for anyone who has managed to stay awake. No attempt is made to make De Niro's Dr Wells anything other than utterly evil so his attempts at playing God with others peoples DNA comes as no surprise.
The picture quality is excellent, as you would expect from a big budget effort from Universal.
Excellent surround sound track enhances Brian Tyler's atmospheric score, possibly the best thing about the film.
Extra Features
It says something about a film when the extras on the DVD offer not one but FOUR alternative endings. Is it any wonder the film is an incoherent mess? None offer a suitable conclusion, more a variation of a theme; a commentary on each tries to explain what's going on. The ending entitled Richard Dies, cemetery is probably better than the one used.

A commentary by the director and the talented cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau also offers some explanation on the films style but makes no excuses for the plot. We also get a storyboard comparison and the theatrical trailer finishes things off.
The Verdict
Tenuous plotting, terrible performances, cliché upon cliché, Godsend barely does anything right. Any effort to discuss the topical and controversial subject of cloning in a serious way is wasted in this formulaic effort. A shame as the talents involved should have given us something better. Cloning is a fascinating topic for a horror film; regrettably Godsend isn't that film.
Movie Score
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