Fourteen years after Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan appeared together in “Gone Baby Gone”, the directorial debut of Casey’s big brother Ben. The two actors are reunited in “Every Breath You Take”, which isn’t a biopic of Sting and The Police but is a psychological thriller of a psychiatrist (Casey Affleck), who has invites a grieving James (Sam Claflin) into his home to meet his wife (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter.
But James makes it his mission to disrupt the doctor’s life. Why? Well one of Philip’s patients, a young woman named Daphne (Emily Alyn Lind) is James’ sister who had spent 14 months in a psych ward and threatened suicide numerous times. Philip had decided to try and help her out in an unorthodox way, a way he has never treated his patients before. Phillip drops his psychiatrist defenses and opens up telling her his life story, including things he’d never had told his wife. He shares his feelings about his past trauma (which opens the film).
Originally to be directed by Rob Reiner (“When Harry Met Sally”, “A Few Good Men”) when it was first announced in 2012 that had attracted both Harrison Ford and Zac Efron. Director Vaughn Stein has taken over directing duties, who was last seen directing the underrated (or at least I liked it), 2018 film “Terminal” with Margot Robbie. While it would have been great to have seen Rob Reiner behind the directors chair and revisiting his 1990 thriller classic “Misery”. Vaughn Stein as a director gives us an old-fashioned thriller, the kind that finds a market straight to dvd and the type that Hollywood is afraid to make mainstream. Vaughn’s film best resembles the late 80’s and early 90’s thrillers of Roman Polanski.
“Every Breath You Take” is a home invasion movie where the invasion is psychological but turns physical. Stein’s film takes notes of past thrillers like: “Pacific Heights” and “Unlawful Entry”, with a “Cape Fear”temperament. To fore warn everyone take note that “Every Breath You Take” is a timepiece thriller. It does take a while to get the tension going, but it does eventually get there as screenwriter David Murray (making his screenwriting debut) slowly winds up the tension as the film progresses. Unfortunately the worst part of Murray’s script is how easily he indulges in all the psychotic tendencies that we have come to expect from the genre.
Murray’s script also relies as yet another movie that uses the death of a child as a way of depicting a marital breakdown. If you count his recent role in “Our Friend” and his Oscar win in “Manchester by the Sea”, Casey Affleck (also the films executive producer) is again playing a man numbed by a tragic loss. While it’s probably too late for Affleck, that repressed grief has become his brand. But he is so good in these roles we accept it and honestly nobody does depression on screen better than Casey Affleck.
Sam Claflin the handsome hunk of “Me Before You”, who can cut glass with his cheekbones shows us a side we haven’t seen before. In past movies Claflin can be Hugh Grant, but here he is a brooding dimpled psycho slithery charmer whose most threatening tool is seduction and eventually violence. Claflin is the films sole live wire, while Affleck and Monaghan are at times seem to go on autopilot. The two are still great as the bereaved parents who have drifted apart.
But eventually all the characters just become pawns, with the women in Phillip’s life getting caught in the cross hairs. “Every Breath You Take” carries you along with both it’s character study and some high tension moments that culminates into the kind of finale, that Hollywood was so obsessed with in the ’90s. Stein’s film just remains frustrating and would have been better served if it were in the hands of original director Rob Reiner, the inspired Polanski or even those great ‘90s thrillers I mentioned earlier that it inspires to be.
GRADE: ★★1/2☆☆☆ (2.5 out of 5)