When a female FBI agent goes missing in mysterious circumstances, the Agency calls on the very retired and reticent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) - through his ex Agency partner, the now busy and committed physician, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). She has her own problems, trying to save the life of a young boy with serious brain disease. But she convinces Mulder, who is soon intrigued by convicted pedophile priest Father Joe (Billy Connolly) whose apparent psychic powers lead the FBI to their first grisly clue. As another woman goes missing, the urgency intensifies but Mulder's willingness to believe is shaken and those around him, even Scully, draw back from the inexplicable.
It's complicated - but not too much so. And I'm referring to the revived old relationship between Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) - as well as the plot. The fans will lap up this thrilling new feature that has gestated in the belly of the hugely popular series for years. From its no holds barred start to its heartfelt finish, the film is compelling entertainment, thanks in part to a great script and in part to the top performances.
Mature in every way, the film and its characters lead us scene by scene through a maze of clues and scares as the story elements start to converge. I don't want to spoil the revelations by saying more about that, except that it's clever and credible. The writers have woven a rich and complex story in which the characters move with great dramatic payoffs.
Duchovny and Anderson bring a maturity to their characters, infused with a well worked subtext about their relationship, which sustains throughout, without relying on gimmicks or stretches of credibility. Both actors bring depth and emotion to the film, as does the wonderful Billy Connolly, who clearly responded to the challenge of playing Father Joe, a repentant pedophile with a psychic gift - or is it just fantasy? Connolly is superbly in command of his character and shows us a level of complexity that elevates his support role to a higher plane.
Great support from Amanda Peet and Alvin Xzibit Joiner as FBI agents, the former very matter of fact and let's get the job done, the latter dismissive of Mulder and his openness to the psychic.
The film's great achievement is that even within the bounds of its genre as a supernatural thriller, it generates a much deeper resonance about a range of issues, from God and faith to the mysteries of daily life.
Review by Louise Keller:
The white of snow provides the setting for this dark tale in which the unexplained provides the most provocative questions. It's hard to believe it has been ten years since the highly popular X-Files TV series finally found its way to the screen, but it's no surprise that the chemistry between David Duchovney's Mulder and Gillian Anderson's Scully remains as binding as ever. Nothing is simple: from the tense plot involving severed body parts and animal tranquilisers to Billy Connolly's remorseful pedophile priest whose psychic visions are punctuated by tears of blood. And not least is the complexity of Mulder and Scully's multi-layered relationship, beginning with their personal bond before ricocheting into areas of their fundamental individual differences. Superbly made with an edge of the seat tension that lingers, X-Files fans will be more than satisfied as the credible and incredible sit side by side in an explosive melee.
There's something eerie about the opening snow-covered sequence in Somerset West Virginia, when Billy Connolly's grey, messy haired psychic is flanked by an army of FBI agents, as he uses his talents to locate frozen body parts buried in the snow. Connolly himself is buried as deeply inside his tortured character as is the arm wrapped in black plastic beneath the snow, as he delivers a ghost of a man whose sins have stripped him of a soul. Amanda Peet and Xzibit join the cast as agents on the case, but all the warmth and humanity belong to Mulder and Scully, who both reveal the scars from their past as well as the unshakeable bond that keeps them together. Mulder has become a recluse, while Scully questions her right as a doctor to make decisions for her young patient. As they unwittingly become involved in this new case involving a missing FBI agent, their involvement becomes deeper and deeper, like footprints in the snow.
Writer director Chris Carter knows the X-Files characters back to front and stays true to the essence of the TV series' mystique. The story reveals itself slowly; it feels as though we are kept on a leash until the final reveal, when the full ugliness of the events are shown under the spotlight. Tension mounts by the ever-constant barking of dogs, and the contrast of the stunning wintry setting with the grimy plot undercurrent. While the issues canvassed onscreen are significant, it is the even larger imponderables that propel the story into something more intriguing in this thought provoking and thrilling film.
By Tosia Morris
The curtains close. The screen goes black. Cue the Mark Snow track.
Six years after they merged with the pixels in the box, the feisty sceptic and the dry-humoured believer return to the forefront of our screens – and by golly if fervent “X-Files” fans aren’t drowning in a pool of their sweat by the time they sink into their cushy cinema seats, anticipating the reintroduction of agents Mulder and Scully . “If you build it, they will come”.
Series creator Chris Carter, along with actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, dive back into a pile of manila folders for the highly-anticipated and long-awaited (the first draft was written in 2003) sequel to television’s greatest spook-serial. And like the first “X-Files” film – “X-Files: Fight the Future” – “I want to Believe” is an epic and imposing big-screen adventure, one that extends the theme’s of the series, whilst offering something for those that don’t know their Jeffrey Spender’s from their well-manicured men.
It’s been a long time between drinks for Mulder and Scully, and so admittedly their big-screen reprisal doesn’t come without risk. Not that they don’t still have an audience out there – they certainly do, you only have to do a Google to see how many “X-Files” websites and forums exist – but like an overseas tourist in the front row of a pantomime, it has to stand-up. So many TV shows-cum-films simply disintegrate due to poor structure - even the “Sex and the City” movie loses points, because it didn’t think of anyone else but those that watched the show; in this day and age, you have to! - “I Want to Believe” has been more thought out than a triple-homicide. it’s a meticulously plotted and imaginatively crafted piece of filmmaking that’s considered everyone from the get-go.
First a disclaimer: I love The X-Files. Always have… probably always will. They call us ‘X-Phile’s, and we collect anything and everything bearing the ‘X’ symbol – be it a DVD collection, CD soundtrack, pencil case or T-Shirt. So yes, it’s inevitable that whatever Chris Carter and company put together I was going to enjoy … but the question is: How much would I enjoy it? And could the film work for the non-fan? For the sake of the review, I’ve locked my bias in the basement. For the film to succeed I realize it has to do more than simply have Mulder and Scully admitting to their unspoken relationship (but that would be a good start).
I don’t want to touch on the plot too much – it’s best to walk in fresh, without knowing every jump, jolt and bit of dialogue back-to-front before you see the film. What I will say is that it involves a disgraced priest (Billy Connolly), “Dr” Scully (Anderson) and her reclusive beau Mulder (Duchovny) and a series of kidnappings – which, as to be expected, isn’t the doing of your usual ‘snatch and grab’ villain.
Filmed in beautiful Vancouver (the sequences shot in the snow look terrific) – where the series was shot for many years before relocating to L.A – “I Want to Believe” is a much smaller film than its predecessor, but no less thrilling. In fact, the intimacy of the storyline, and the central emphasis shifting from the ‘monster-of-the-week’ to the lead characters, might be an even more affecting stratagem than the conspiracy-centric ‘Fight the Future’.
Carter knows Mulder and Scully back to front – he really does. This is where the two characters would probably be six years from the series – there’s no doubting that. He’s also aware that their relationship, not just careers, would’ve changed since we last saw them – and welcomingly announces the duo as a couple from the get-go.
And how could he not? The undeniable chemistry, not just between Mulder and Scully, but the actors that play them, is harder to hide than a slab of beer at an underage disco. Fans will be pleased with the number of sweeter scenes - scenes that wont leave you doubting the status of their relationship (and don’t leave before the end of the credits, as you will miss a fun little surprise that will make you smile).
Anderson shines as the long suffering Scully, still equipped with the huge heart we saw in the series, but also some newly-added gusto (she has balls!). Scully feels a little more grown and developed as a character while Duchovny’s Mulder has pretty much remained stagnant – but probably by design (once a believer, always a believer).
Though it’s clearly the ‘Mulder and Scully’ show – and rightfully so – Carter has assembled a terrific support cast. Amanda Peet (“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”, “The Martian Child”) and rapper Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner are the most noticeable of the new additions – she as Agent Dakota Whitney, he as Agent Mosley Drummy. Billy Connolly, as the disgraced priest Father Crissman, once again proves his versatility as an actor by taking on a role that’s about as fun as Cancer (Man). It’s also quite an accomplishment for an actor to play such a dislikeable character and yet not be seen ostensibly evil in the audience’s eyes.
Fans of the show will love it – there’s lots of in-jokes, cameos, and, of course, some surprises in store story-wise! – And I don’t see those off the street having a problem with the flick either. They’ll be sure to be drawn into the thrilling plotline and won’t feel too much of an alien in this unfamiliar terrain - anything they need to know can be explained in an easy sentence (Previous knowledge is not required as much here as it was in the previous film “Fight the Future” – it really is a great stand-alone piece)
Yes, the overall ‘X-File’ of the plot is a little wacky – they probably could’ve toned it back a bit, and it still would’ve worked just as well – and Duchovny is constantly overshadowed by Anderson (and no again fault of his, it’s merely the fact that the writers have chosen to evolve the character of Scully – more so Mulder; and that’s probably been the intention since day one) and devoid of a lot new to do, but they’re merely tiny holes in a grand ship – steered in style by the masterful Chris Carter and long-time cohort Frank Spotnitz.
“The X-Files: I Want to Believe” isn’t just a love letter to X-Philes, it’s a tremendous film in it’s own right – in fact, it might be just be the best film of the year! Believe it!Our Score:
ETA: I watched the movie and it was GREAT. It didn't have much paranormal in it and it wasn't insanely scary but it's a grade A X-files episode on the big screen, it's intellectual and dramatic and so beautifully acted (especially by Gillian) - it's so worth a watch. Those reviewers who expected some 200 million dollar budget spectacle will obviously be gravely disappointed. The X-files was never over the top CGI. Not for a sci-fi show anyway.