Film Review – Nicolas Cage in TRESPASS (2011)
by Lula Argante
Knowing that Joel Schumacher and Nicolas Cage are not afraid to go to intense dark places together, their last collaboration in 1999 film 8MM being high up in my list of top Cage movies and my favourite Schumacher directed film, I had high expectations of Trespass, and was more than ever so slightly intrigued to see if they would be met.
In the opening of the film we meet Kyle Miller, an apparently wealthy, workaholic, high end business man who brings a whole other meaning to ‘door to door salesman’, negotiating deals with a slick and non-stop banter over his cell phone as he enters his gated architecturally stunning property, even continuing an important business transation as he joins his wife Sarah (Nicolas Kidman) and daughter Avery (Liana Liberato) mid argument, pausing to briefly agree with Sarah about Avery not being allowed to attend a party. His cell phone pinned to his ear and (literally) handcuffed to his metallic hermeceutically sealed briefcase, we soon see where Kyles’ priorities seemingly lie and how neglected Sarah feels, as he flips off a specially planned family dinner for a business meeting and in an awkward exchange where he explains he is doing it all for the family, cannot bring himself to kiss his wife goodbye.
But before he can leave, the Millers become victims of a home invasion, suddenly thrown into a harrowing ordeal with four armed and masked intruders.
We as the audience are suddenly plunged into this horrific event alongside them, and bear witness to an intense and more intricately unfolding story than at first we realise, with many layers, twists and turns presenting themselves almost from the beginning to the end of the movie. Throughout, there are ’revelations’ that somehow subtly shift our perceptions of every character: placed and paced so brilliantly by Schumacher, that we are utterly captivated in suspense continuously throughout the film.
The home invasion scenario feels almost like a stage play, taking place over the course of one evening and almost entirely in one room in the house that becomes so symbolic of the movie themes, the haves and the have nots, the ultimate meaning of money and family.
Beautifully choreographed, we are magnetically pulled into a dangerous and scary dance between the hostages and intruders and the inner tensions within each. The enclosed set magnifies these dynamics, brings an almost claustrophobic feel as we get closer and closer up to the ultimate truths for each of these characters.
As Kyles’ motivations unfold, his earlier manner and apparent weaknesses, and his statement of doing it all for the family, all take on new layers of meaning, our sympathies are pulled more towards him as he almost heroically stands up to the intruders, attempts to bravely protect his wife and child and the true nature of his financial standing is revealed (or so we think, but a later plot twist turns that on it’s head once again).
Sarah’s own secrets, or not, are revealed in a double twist where she appears to know one of the intruders, two of whom are brothers with an interesting backstory and motivations of their own, which when they come into play, reveal that Sarah and Kyle are ‘not the only hostages’ in this situation.
Glimpses of the back story and individual character histories are given to us through a series of flashbacks which work because they bring a sense of light relief to the relentless building tension of the harrowing events of the robbery, with their almost dreamlike quality, (some shots flooded with white and blended with semi transparent shots and fades). In the flashbacks Sarah wears casual light coloured clothes as opposed to the tightly fitting dark sophisticated black outfit, somehow adding to this polarity. The flashbacks also seem to reveal to us elements of the backstory and the motivations of the characters, but their full potential is not clear until nearer the end of the film, when we become aware that they are in fact [spoiler alert] the subjective imagination of the characters and versions of events differ. (clever clever Mr Schumacher).
For me there are two standout performances in Trespass, Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. Cage plays his character in a way that keeps you consistently guessing about him, Kyle radiates an almost mysterious quality that adds a silent but imposing weight to every scene, brought to life with characteristic Cage character depth, layers and ambiguity.
At first we may judge him as a weaker man, but in a pivotal scene where he confronts the intruders about the diamonds – a scene with a noticably more excitable and tinny voice intonation, sweeping through the hair hand gestures, throwing back his head defiantly and almost stamping his foot, with glimpses, for me, of Terence from The Bad Lieutenant and also rather pleasantly bringing to mind Peter Loew from Vampire’s Kiss – he may appear as almost selfish and reckless and we are not sure if we can trust him, an yet there is a nobility and braveness in his actions and words. Later in the film, as we begin to suspect that perhaps Kyle is the victim in more ways than one, alongside his heart aching tenderness towards his wife and daughter as they face danger, and repetitions of his defiant courage, we are brought to a place of respect, that enable us to get behind him as the hero of the movie.
Nicole Kidman as Sarah also displays layers of ambiguity and strength, we find ourselves judging her for her supposed affair with one of her assailants, and yet her acts of bravery in protecting her daughter Avery and ultimately, as we discover, her faithful love for her husband, elicit some of the most powerful moments of performance in the movie.
Trespass did not disappoint my expectations as a movie or as a performance from Nicolas Cage. As a long time fan, I cannot think of a Nic Cage film with such an enclosed set, that play-like quality was awesome to experience in itself and the intensity had me emptionally involved, holding my breath and in tears on and off throughout. At the end, as the family finally escape from the scene indoors where their ordeal took place, looking back on the house symbolically burning to the ground, we are escaping too, able to breathe again, and perhaps finding ourselves agreeing with an implicit moral statement from Schumacher that money and wealth in the end mean nothing, nothing but perhaps trouble and heartache, and that the bricks and mortar Home is not where the heart is.
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