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The Clearing review

Though ostensibly a movie about abduction, this elegant if rather empty drama is really a portrait of a marriage. Wealthy businessman Wayne Hayes (Robert Redford) is snatched at gunpoint by former employee Arnold Mack (Willem Dafoe) and frogmarched through dense forest to a designated clearing. While his regal wife Eileen (Helen Mirren) calls in the FBI, the parallel narratives show all three protagonists reflecting on their marital lives...

Justin Haythe's tempered script dares to play the drama obliquely but its lack of depth is frustrating, leaving it to an impressive cast to add the details. Mirren is as cool as her unheated pool, while Dafoe reliably invests his envious crim with empathy. But Redford's new, immobile face means he has to depend on star wattage to convey self-confidence and gumption.

Pieter Jan Brugge's first-time direction is stylish and he keeps his audience guessing. Shame the story, like many of his close-ups, is out of focus.

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