Envisage this: You and 2 friends are out walking in the forest. You find a recently crashed helicopter well-hidden in the shrubbery, containing a bag with 4 million dollars in it. A timeless moral dilemma… would YOU take the money?
Sam Raimi’s spine-chilling new thriller “ A Simple Plan” is a brilliantly revamped and reworked version of a very old tale, the 14th Century story “ The Pardoner‘s Tale” by renowned author Geoffrey Chaucer and is a strong indicator of just how valuable the process of transformation really is. From watching the movie, the slogan ‘Radix malorum est Cupiditas” [ Avarice is the root of all evil ] seems to gain an even more significant meaning.
ASP revolves around Hank Mitchell, his pregnant wife Sarah, his seemingly slow-on the-uptake brother Jacob and Jacob’s best friend Lou. Everything seems to be on a blissful upward spiral for Hank, he has everything he believes he needs for a good life; “ A wife he loves, a decent job, neighbours and friends that like and respect him”.
That is, until they find the money- then EVERYTHING changes.
One day whilst chasing a fox who had earlier caused Jacob to crash his truck, the 2 brothers and Lou are led into a nature preserve and by some crazy [ and we all discover to be later catastrophic ] phenomenon a crashed plane is uncovered and in it they find a bag with a huge amount of cash in it; 4.4 million dollars to be exact. As Lou breathlessly stated “It’s the American Dream in a goddamn gym bag!”. It is during this scene we get our first glimpse of a constant theme in this riveting film and one which is also used nineteen to the dozen in TPT- Death. Whilst in Chaucer’s time, although a common and accepted occurrence, death was spiritual-people lived daily in the absolute fear of Purgatory or the worst of the worst- going to that fiery place; Hell. In ASP, the chilling prospect of a sort of Hell on Earth is introduced, which is actually an example of the context Raimi is working with; 20th century audiences who are not all rattled by the sight of gruesome and graphic violence, ever-so-steamy sex scenes and one which demands to be entertained right from the starting credits to their concluding end credit predecessors.
Bill Paxton was always going to be the choice to play the extremely demanding role of main character Hank Mitchell. With his evergreen nice-guy reputation and magnificent dramatic flair, we watch on our edge of our seats as his unashamed greed takes over him completely and he deteriorates into a moral-less evil creature, always looking to be 2 steps ahead of everyone else, all in his bid to save his hide.
Billy Bob Thornton plays the part of Jacob brilliantly and in a shameless show of support I’ve already got him down as the automatic selection for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award/Golden Globe. With Jane Fonda playing Sarah in an exceptional performance, the cast is extremely solid and with them binding together well Raimi’s character-development is able to openly flourish as they tumble headfirst into a cauldron of dire consequences and tragic situations.
Does the movie draw me in straightaway from the opening scene?
In a word- YES.
The opening scene is one of the most important and brilliant scenes in this twisting-and-turning masterpiece. Some examples of techniques utilised in this scene are; Hank as Narrator-” For a while there, without hardly even realising it, I had all that. I was a happy man”, the use of close-up and an impressive repertoire of panning out shots-on the snow, the broad bleak lonely landscape. Also we are introduced to one of the many symbols of death- the black ravens, with their ebony tones freakishly contrasting against the pure white snow; good versus evil, black on white.
Death again rears it’s ugly head when the close-up scene of the fox breaking into the chicken hutch to swipe some well-earned dinner- this is a representation of just how much society…