Movie Review: The Pledge (2001)

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Robin Wright and Aaron Eckhart

Directed by: Sean Penn

A recently retired police detective is unhappy with the outcome of his final case. Convinced the real killer is still out there he conducts his own investigation after promising the mother of a murdered young girl that he will find the killer.

The Pledge is a movie that tackles a difficult subject matter head on which at times can be uneasy to think about, especially as it can quite literally happen to anybody. Nobody is safe from having their child abducted, raped and murdered and when you think of like that, this movie really hits home.

Jack Nicholson can be argued as being one of the greatest actors to ever grace our screens and he stars in this mystery crime drama as Jerry Black. On the day of his retirement there’s a call about a body being found in the woods and reluctant to embrace retirement, Jerry wants to help the best he can. The body is of a very young girl who has been raped and murdered and first suspect is mentally ill Indian Toby Wadenah (Benico Del Toro), who has previous for child rape. Wadenah confesses to a crime that he doesn’t know he’s confessing to and becomes very frightened of the repercussions, so much so that he commits suicide. Everybody at the station is happy with the outcome that Wadenah was the guilty party and that’s a successful case closed. Not Jerry Black however, he made a promise to the little girls mother that he’d find the person responsible for the heinous crime carried out on her daughter and he’s not convinced that Wadenah was the man they were looking for. Edging into retirement he connects a few similar cases from the nearby areas and works up a plan to try and solve this mystery once and for all.

The Pledge opens up with immediate drama and right from the start the audience is hooked into the story. Unfortunately the story doesn’t maintain its momentum which lapses during a large portion of the movie. While the focus should be on finding the child killer, we are instead treated with Jack Nicholson fishing and running his newly bought gas station which I felt was damaging the overall impact of the story. The intensity began to start again near the conclusion of the movie only for the ending to be such a disappointing anti-climatic affair that just left me scratching my head in bewilderment.

The way the story progressed was such a shame as Nicholson I felt played his part really well and the movie as a whole was well made and directed and offered a few twists and turns along the way. Supported by a very impressive performance by Robin Wright and cameos from Helen Mirren and Benico Del Toro, The Pledge has everything going for it except for the progression of the story. With a little over two hours of run time I would’ve like to have thought there was ample time to fully develop a tense, gritty and shocking story to match the initial drama provided at the beginning.

Overall, The Pledge was an alright movie which should’ve been a lot better had story development been more of a priority. We are instead treated with some very good acting as well as some disturbing real life issues receiving a greater awareness.


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