Sunday, December 18, 2016

The X-Files: I Want To Believe

Ten years after the first feature and six years after Fox cancelled the television series after nine seasons, THE X-FILES returned to the big screen with a moody thriller set in bleak, wintry West Virginia (but filmed in British Columbia). The FBI bring former agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) out of retirement to investigate the disappearance of a fellow agent and the discovery of human body parts buried in the snow.

Again written by Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter, who also directed, the X-FILES sequel is short on spectacle — it has only one real action sequence — but long on grimness. In addition to its quietly intense dramatics, dreary setting, and heady discussions about science versus religion, the plot also includes a pedophile priest played by Billy Connolly (BOONDOCK SAINTS) who claims to have psychic visions of the FBI agent’s kidnapping. But does he really have supernatural abilities or is he actually a killer?

Something of an anti-blockbuster, despite its July release date, I WANT TO BELIEVE holds interest due to its creepy mood, well delineated by Carter, and the strong relationship between Mulder and Scully. Duchovny and Anderson are extremely good together, and they know their characters so well that watching them feels like being covered with a nice warm security blanket. Fan favorite Mitch Pileggi (SHOCKER) makes a late appearance as Walter Skinner, which is brief but well integrated into the story. Unfortunately, while Amanda Peet and Xzibit are fine, I guess, as FBI agents, one wonders why Carter didn’t bring back former regulars Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish in their roles.

Fox did the film a real disservice, releasing it one week after THE DARK KNIGHT and the same weekend as San Diego Comic Con. Unsurprisingly, I WANT TO BELIEVE opened in fourth place and was out of the top ten after two weekends. A fall or winter release would have been more appropriate for a film with with a built-in cult audience and virtually no mainstream appeal by 2008.

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