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MURDER BY NUMBERS ,2002
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MURDER BY NUMBERSMURDER BY NUMBERS, 2002
Movie Reviews

Directed by Barbet Schroeder

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ben Chaplin, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt, Agnes Bruckner, Chris Penn
Review by Natalie Haygarth


SYNOPSIS:

Two high school students, Richard and Justin, share the idea that “one cannot live fully without embracing suicide and crime”. They decide together that they will plan and execute the perfect murder so that neither of them will get caught. When the body of the lady they have murdered is discovered, Detective Cassie Mayweather is put in charge of the case. Whilst ghosts of her own past are coming back to haunt her (which share parallels to the case she is investigating), she pursues the case convinced that Richard in particular has played a part in the murder; unlike her colleagues who fall for the carefully planned “perfect murder” devised by the two. The film follows Richard and Justin planning, carrying out and attempting to evade conviction for the murder, and also Cassie’s struggle with her own demons and her battle to prove the two of them guilty.

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REVIEW:

It goes without saying that the stars of this film are both Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt. The two of them put in great performances as the two high school students - Richard Haywood (Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Pitt) - who believe that they are capable of killing someone in a way so they will not get caught.

The relationship between Richard and Justin is as much a point of interest as the actual murder case. There are certain aspects (such as the portrait of their two faces merged together as one that they keep in their sacred meeting place that no one else knows of) that seem to indicate that the two were lovers as well as friends yet this is never disclosed to us directly.

What is different about this film is that you know the perpetrators of the crime. You are not following and sharing the uncertainty of the detectives who are trying to find this out as you already know. Instead, you follow Detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) in her own personal attempt to find evidence and piece together how Richard and Justin carried out the crime. She does this pretty much single handedly due to everyone else involved in the case falling for Richard and Justin’s “perfect murder” plot.

It is not Det. Mayweather’s high level of intelligence that leads her to suspect the two students. Her assumption is based on her own intuition that stems from her own personal experiences – she was attacked and left for dead by an ex-boyfriend of hers, who in her own words was “the cutest boy she ever saw, until Richard Haywood”. Mayweather’s behaviour does border on obsessive when it comes to trying to prove Richard’s guilt, and if it wasn’t for the fact that we already know that he was involved, you would most certainly consider Mayweather to be slightly unhinged, as do many of her colleagues (Richard and Justin’s plan working in this respect).

As the film progresses, more of an emphasis is placed on Mayweather’s personal story. This is where the film, for me, got a little melodramatic, and I couldn’t help but feel that the film would have benefited if it didn’t take this route where it concerns itself with Cassie “facing up to her own demons”. At the end of the film, Cassie has herself a little speech, saying to Justin that “you get one life and whatever you do with it or whatever’s done to you, you have to face that, you can’t pretend it didn’t happen”. It’s almost as if Mayweather’s personal story, and her “accomplishments” regarding this, take centre stage, which is a great shame as the film works greatly when it concerns itself with solving the case which is done in an unusual but interesting way. You know all about the crime – who did it and why, and you are guided through all elements of the process by Richard and Justin, whilst at the same time following people on the right side of the law trying to track down the culprit/s - with them step by step. This is what makes this film stand out – you as a viewer know pretty much all you want to, yet it still manages to hook you in. It works great as a crime film, it’s just a pity it gradually turns in to a film concerned with the personal troubles and triumphs of Detective Cassie Mayweather.

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