Title fight Hopkins vs. Gosling can


on April 20, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson

I used to candle eggs at my grandfather's farm; hold an egg up to a light and look for imperfections. The first time I did it, he told me to put the ones that were cracked or flawed into a bucket for the bakery.

He came back an hour later, and there were 300 eggs in the bucket. I found a flaw in every single one. Thin places in the shell, fine hairline cracks.

Look closely enough, and you'll find everything has a weak spot where, sooner or later, it will break.

This passage, which also serves as an epigraph to the press notes for Fracture, is significant for several reasons.

First, it reveals the central characterization of Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), a wealthy, genteel man with a fierce intelligence who has made his fortune working in fracture mechanics, identifying the causes of aeronautical malfunctions and plane crashes. When he discovers his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is cheating on him with a cop, he plots the perfect murder, not by covering it up but by readily admitting his guilt. Asked at the scene of the crime whether his wife is all right, he says, “I don't think so. I shot her.”

With one foot out the door to a cushy job in corporate law, assistant district attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) reluctantly accepts the slam-dunk case. Charismatic and cocky, Willy has one ear on his cell phone planning the interior design of his new office while schmoozing his sexy new boss Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike) and tying up the loose ends of his last investigation as a prosecutor.

But soon cracks develop in the case: For one, Crawford's gun, the one he supposedly shot his wife with, has never been fired. Willy quickly realizes he's being outwitted by a defendant who's only been playing the fool and, after embarrassing defeats in the courtroom, must play catch-up in Crawford's game of cat and mouse if he ever wants to work again on either side of the aisle.

The monologue is also significant because of its delivery. Although a revelatory moment for his character, Hopkins, who's notoriously dismissive of the notion that there's anything grand about acting, says the lines quickly, almost off-handedly. It's a remarkable choice that demonstrates Crawford's wit, intelligence and keen self-awareness all in one moment.

Meanwhile, across the table from Hopkins sits his heir. With this performance, Gosling only further secures his reputation for charisma and raw talent that garnered him an Oscar nom this year for Half Nelson. His significant moment comes when Nikki informs Willy that his difficulties with Crawford could cost him his new job at her firm. In one gesture, Gosling nonchalantly shrugs off the threat to his future while his eyes betray vulnerability, fear and panic.

Every character, no matter how minor, is as richly written and portrayed, from hostage negotiator Detective Rob Nunally (Billy Burke), who experiences the most dramatic emotional evolution in the film, to the no-nonsense hospital nurse tending to Crawford's comatose wife.

Unfortunately, the egg anecdote also describes the film itself. “Everything has a weak spot where, sooner or later, it will break,” Crawford says. Indeed, Fracture does have a potentially fatal flaw. There's a plot twist, and, if one figures it out before the characters do, self-satisfaction swiftly segues to frustration.

However, that may be the case only with some viewers, and, in addition to an otherwise smart and entertaining script by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers and stellar performances across the board, Gregory Hoblit (best-known for Primal Fear ) has directed an intensely visual film set in grand locations—the oft-photographed Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles has never been so lovingly filmed as by cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau.

Especially mesmerizing are the wood and brass Rube Goldberg-like contraptions in Crawford's office and home. Designed by Dutch artist Mark Bishoff, the sculptures are, metaphorically and visually, hypnotizing.

Distributor: New Line
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike and Embeth Davidtz
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Screenwriters: Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers
Producer: Charles Weinstock
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R for language and some violent content
Running time: 113 min.
Release date: April 20, 2007
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