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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/21/02

Along Came a Spider
2001 (2001) - Paramount

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Along Came a Spider Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/C-

Specs and Features

103 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual layered (layer switch at 1:01:34), Amaray keep case packaging, behind-the-scenes featurette, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (12 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0) subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"I'm living proof, that a mind... a mind is a terrible thing."

I would be hard pressed to explain myself if I said Along Came a Spider is a return to form for Morgan Freeman, simply because Freeman is never out of form. Becoming a household name for his Oscar-nominated work in The Shawshank Redemption, Freeman has been the glue in half-a-dozen otherwise unworthy films.

In Along Came a Spider, Alex Cross (Freeman) is a damaged detective for the Washington D.C. police department. His partner was killed in a sting a few months ago and he's been grieving ever since. Suddenly, Alex is thrown back into service when a kidnapper uses him as a means to communicate with the police and the kidnapped child's family. The family, whose patriarch is a senator, can't understand why the kidnapper's chosen Cross, and Cross can only think that it's because he's a famous pathologist - his involvement can only bring fame to the case and to the kidnapper.

But not everything in this case, which seems eerily similar to the Lindbergh kidnapping, is as it seems. If the kidnapper wants fame, why take a backwater Senator's daughter? If he hasn't demanded money, why does he suddenly want 12 million dollars in diamonds? Naturally, as Cross continues the investigation, he finds that the real plot behind the kidnapping is bigger than he could have possibly thought.

From Chain Reaction to Hard Rain to Nurse Betty to Kiss the Girls (which made Ashley Judd a household name), Freeman has always been the calming force that quietly added character to each film. While some of those films are less than memorable, Freeman's presence has always been welcome, and Along Came a Spider capitalizes on Freeman's abilities as a "star" more than as an actor. He helps to make this film much more than your average "huntin' for a kidnapper" flick. It also doesn't hurt that the script makes some wildly ambitious plot twists that call in some question of credibility, but somehow work if you allow yourself to be taken for the ride.

Still, Along Came a Spider can't escape the trappings of the genre. Flashbacks become important plot points and you can sense that the twist is coming even if you aren't sure what it is (and you're usually sure). You can't say that Along Came a Spider isn't a well-structured film. It's just that it uses the structure of dozens of films before it, and doesn't exactly add anything new to the formula. But, then again, there is Morgan Freeman.

Paramount has done yet another good job with the transfer on this DVD. Video-wise, the transfer is crisp, devoid of grain and artifacting. Flesh tones appear to be accurately presented, and I noticed no color bleeding anywhere in the picture. There is a bit of noticeable edge enhancement, which keeps the transfer from being reference quality, but it's pretty close.

On the audio-side, this track is heaven. The numerous action scenes make great use of the surround channels, and the dialogue is always intelligible. The bass is also used well throughout the film. To my surprise, Jerry Goldsmith's score also uses the surrounds - the electronic instruments float from front to rear and back again to great eerie effect throughout the film.

The extras are a bit thin. There's a 14-minute long promotional featurette (that's not THAT great) and the theatrical trailer.

Along Came a Spider is far from a perfect crime movie, but is certainly solid entertainment. And with a great transfer and audio that'll make your home theater shine, it's definitely worth a spin.

Graham Greenlee
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