My Favorite Movies – Dead Again (1991)

24 May

By Tanner Smith

Ohh, how am I going to get across how great this film is without spoiling it?

“Dead Again” is a 1991 thriller directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, best known for Shakespearean film adaptations. (And btw, if anyone’s wondering if I’ll be talking about any of those for this series, yes I am–“Hamlet’ and “Much Ado About Nothing”…I couldn’t really get into Henry V.)

Branagh plays a private investigator named Mike Church, whose recent case is finding the identity and memory of a pretty woman (Emma Thompson) who seems to have lost all sorts of either. A hypnotist (Derek Jacobi) decides to help by putting her under hypnosis to see if it helps any, believing that a past life might have led to trauma in her present life. (Interesting leap there, but whatever.) Sure enough, the woman, nicknamed “Grace,” has visions of the tragic romance of Roman and Margaret Strauss (also played by Branagh and Thompson), which ended with cold-blooded murder. Mike doesn’t believe in any of this, but then he gets hypnotized as well…and suddenly, his courtship with Grace could be dangerous.

Oh, and Robin Williams is in this too. (He asked for his name not to be included in the credits so his appearance wouldn’t mislead audiences–well, that didn’t prevent his appearances in the film’s trailer!) He brings a dark comic edge to his side character of a grocery employee who used to be a psychiatrist and warns of the possibility of the past coming back to haunt and harm the present. “The karma credit plan,” he states: “Buy now, pay forever.”

And…really, I should just stop right there. There are two key twists to this story. One of them is probably easily guessable, but honestly, upon subsequent viewings, it really works–especially when you see how tightly woven writer Scott Frank’s screenplay is is making sure everything fits together. It makes the ending and the overall resolution all the more fitting and fascinating (and pretty nasty too).

Btw, the present-day story is set in Northern California and both Branagh and Thompson hide their English accents rather well. Branagh, I was most surprised by–how is it that the most English of English actors sounds more convincing with an American accent than Benedict Cumberbatch and Hugh Laurie? Don’t you usually have to sport a Southern accent for that?

I admire Branagh’s Shakespearean works, but this Alfred Hitchcock homage is pretty damn good. Maybe it’s good that “Dead Again” is underrated, if it means the twists aren’t overtly spoiled for people coming into it cold.

Seriously. Check this one out. Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation, give it a chance and see how the movie plays with that angle. You might still be intrigued.

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