Deception (2008)

One of the most fascinating abilities of a film is its power to affect our emotions. Films make us laugh, cry, yearn, and fear. One of the more intriguing emotions, though, is that of uneasiness. Many films take advantage of that, and build suspense by leaving its viewers confused. 2008’s “Deception” plays on this idea, attempting to twist stories around to create confusion and suspicion for its audience. With Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor leading the way, this thriller leaves its audience disappointed despite the promising actors and the suspenseful image.

Set in the present day, we are introduced to Jonathan McQuarry (McGregor): a lonely, underprivileged, workaholic accountant. In the opening scene he meets Wyatt Bose (Jackman), who appears to be everything that McQuarry is not. He is outgoing, rich, flashy, and content. With what appears to be a stroke of luck, McQuarry and Bose mix up their cell phones one afternoon. McQuarry answers the phone, thinking it is his, and is suddenly thrust into a world of sex and anonymity. With his newfound freedom, McQuarry begins to live the life he never imagined. He is now part of a corporate sex club, where names are never mentioned and conversations are never had. It seems perfect, until he falls in love with one of the contacts. When she goes missing, he becomes both the prime suspect in her disappearance and an unwilling accomplice in an enormous robbery.

With Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor at the lead, it would be expected that the acting is superb. They succeed in deceiving the audience, but they fail at developing any real attachment to their characters. With very little character development at all in the opening of the film, the viewers have nothing invested in either McQuarry or Bose. At the end of the film, after all of the events have played out and all of the deception is uncovered, there is still no sense of relief or despair for the fates of the characters. They did not act poorly; rather, they had no real character to build upon, and that leaves the audience unsatisfied.

A plus for the film, however, is the cinematography. What makes a suspense film so successful is all of the tricks that the director throws into the scenes that are never noticed until the end. Upon repeated viewings, everything is so clear because of the subtle clues and hints as to the conclusion of the story. The leaky pipe in McQuarry’s apartment, for example, is mentioned in the script but so casually that it never seems to be important at all. The looks of the lawyers whom Bose addresses do not go unnoticed, but misunderstood. It is the subtlety of the clues that keeps the audience engaged enough not to walk out.

This film is very flat. It was worth the discounted rental price, if only to make me appreciate good suspense films even more. Not worth a theater ticket, and definitely not worth a purchase. If it is on TV it might be fun to watch once, but there is no connection to the film at all. Watch it out of boredom: you will not remember it later.

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