Fragments (2008)

Fragments is a mess. I suppose a film titled “Fragments” should be, but the result is less than watchable. The basic idea here is that we’re going to watch how some lives play out after one traumatic experience, and how the individuals overcome their trauma. One will go on a gambling binge, one will become religious, one will become a mute — so on and so forth. The problem lies in the fact that there’s not reason for us to care, the event in question didn’t seem like too big of a deal, and the final moments of the film are just plain silly.

Let’s start with the event. We’re in a restaurant surrounded by good-natured people. Leaving is a doctor played by Guy Pearce. He holds the door for another man, who thanks him. We see Dakota Fanning and Josh Hutcherson to our left. At the counter is Kate Beckinsale speaking with a southern droll, as well as Forest Whitaker, who wants to order some food. Soon enough, shots go off and some of the people surrounding these people are killed. We only get a chunk of the information at first, and the film quickly moves on to the emergency room. It’s like Fragments wants to hide something from us. Or maybe it just wanted to justify its title. We shall see.

Now, I can see how being witness to a shooting can be tough on the people involved. Really, I can, and I’m empathetic toward anyone who has gone through such an event. I am not, however, going to feel that way about anyone in this film, as they don’t act like real human beings. They also don’t show a shred of emotion outside of the initial wave. From that, we might be able to deduce that they’re robots who reacted properly at first but were then unsure of what to do afterward.

Let’s go through how these people react. Whitaker’s character is one of the more memorable, so we’ll start with him. He, at first, wanders around aimlessly. Then he goes to a casino and begins gambling. I think he started with craps. Meanwhile, the police are interviewing his daughter (Jennifer Hudson), although why he’s under suspicion considering he tried to stop the gunman and there were witnesses to this fact is never explained. Also, Whitaker’s character has cancer.

Next is Fanning’s character, who becomes the religious one. Every phrase she utters after the shooting, right up until the final scene of the film, deals with either one of two things — although usually it’s both. Either it’s about how great God is, or it’s about how brave her father was in protecting her (he died in the shooting). She talks via instant messaging with Hutcherson’s character, the mute, and at this point, I disliked both characters. Learn to spell, you stupid, stupid kids! They weren’t even trying, which to me says that director Rowan Woods wanted to seem cool by having them talk in leetspeak. Mr. Woods, that didn’t work.

The last story involves a couple of more characters than the others, but is also the least interesting and the one that makes the least amount of sense (maybe). It involves Pearce’s character, who, need I remind you, left before any of the shots were fired, and his wife (Embeth Davidtz). For reasons unknown, the good doctor decides that poisoning his wife and then providing the antidote is a good idea, so he spends most of his time doing that. He also has to ward of advances from Beckinsale’s character, although both (1) how one might be able to do that and (2) why that’s her sole reason for inclusion are both beyond me.

The second story I mentioned is what we close with, as a “big secret” is revealed that’s supposed to change absolutely everything we know about the characters involved in it. It’s when Hutcherson’s character finally talks, as he’s apparently been a mute just to hold in something so important. But let me tell you something: It’s not important at all, and after it’s revealed, you might just want to throw something at your TV. “You made us wait all that time for that?

None of the motivations make any sense. Trauma doesn’t make you a completely functional human being for most of the time, but give you one simple trait that makes you different from your normal self (and conveniently one simple trait that allows us to differentiate between characters). I get what was attempted with Fragments, but none of it works. This is based on a book titled Winged Creatures (this film was released in some areas with the same title), but having not read the book, I can only hope it’s more coherent than this film.

This is a solid cast, and I’m saddened by the fact that they wasted their time and talents on this project. You have the likes of Forest Whitaker, Guy Pearce, Jackie Earle Hayley and Kate Beckinsale, and they’re all just along for the ride here. They’re not bad, but they could be starring in much better films. This is an ensemble picture done horribly wrong.

Fragments isn’t a good film. It doesn’t help us understand what these characters think, and it doesn’t breathe any insight into anything, either. It’s there, and it tells a few stories (that don’t make sense), but it isn’t engaging and ends up being a waste of the talent involved here. What’s worse is that it shows instant messaging at its worst: An incoherent, poorly written mess of words that are being typed against their will onto the screen. The first four words of that last sentence describe the film as well.

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