At The Picture Show
Through the looking glass
Kiefer Sutherland fights nonsensical otherworldly forces in half-hearted 'Mirrors'
20th Century Fox
Director: Alexandre Aja
Screenplay: Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, based on a 2003 script by
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Cameron Boyce, Erica Gluck, Amy
Smart, Jason Flemyng and Josh Cole
Rated R / 1 hour, 50 minutes
(out of four)
Alright, listen. If there's a condemned building housing evil spirits that lurk inside
of mirrors, Jack Bauer is going to find out about it. If the mirrors hold a secret to
the mysteries of an unsolved crime, Jack Bauer is going to get to the bottom of it.
If you stand in his way, he's going to threaten you with his firearm until you
understand just how serious he is. If you kill someone he loves, that's just going to
make him angrier. If you are concealing crucial information from him, he'll beat it
out of you.
You can't be so glib, Evil Mirrors. You can't mess
with this guy. He's Jack Bauer, and he's never going to stop. He's a machine.
In Mirrors, Jack Bauer plays Ben Carson, recovering alcoholic and loving father of
two, who is on temporary leave from the police force after accidentally killing a
fellow cop. He takes a job as a security guard at the dilapidated Mayflower
building, which used to be a ritzy department store . . . after, of course, it was a
But things seem a little off from the moment he starts his new job. He starts to see
things inside the immaculately clean mirrors. Ghastly images. Distorted reflections.
They're so powerful, in fact, that he can see, hear and even feel what's going on
inside the mirrors, even if it isn't really happening on the other side. The previous
night watchman turns up dead, having slashed his own throat with a piece of . . .
get ready for this . . . a piece of broken glass from a mirror!
Whatever paranormal forces are at work inside these mirrors, Ben becomes
obsessed with these spirits and all their ghoulish desires, and driven to discover the
I know what you're thinking: This sounds like a crappy American remake of an
Asian movie, right?
Sir or madam, you are correct.
Like The Ring, Dark Water and others, Mirrors takes
a silly concept and turns it into a glorified procedural, with the A-list star as one-man (or woman) detective. No one believes Ben, of course. After all, he's an
alcoholic. It's probably just the booze talking! Mirrors killing people? You're
The film is most reminiscent of movies like The Shining and The Amityville
Horror, with its basic plot and suggestions of a cyclical supernatural effect that has
existed long before our protagonist got there, and perhaps will exist long after.
Naturally, just at the point when Ben is trying to patch things up with Amy (Paula
Patton), he becomes obsessed with the mirrors and his seemingly insane behavior
undoes all that progress.
I suppose it's not a terrible idea for a horror movie, but director Alexandre Aja
doesn't trust his audience enough to let the movie work psychologically or
emotionally. When Ben is just starting to realize that something is going on in the
mirrors, Aja insists on showing us what's really there, then what's in the reflection,
then what's really there, then what's in the reflection again. Just to make sure we
get that we're seeing two different images.
Well, we get it. Such an obvious visual storytelling device not only undermines the
intelligence of the main character, but takes away any possibility of uncertainty or
ambiguity that might have made Ben's own experience more taut. If you create an
atmosphere of fear and paranoia through what Ben sees, what he doesn't see, and
what he thinks he sees, you can build genuine terror.
Instead, Aja rejects the power of suggestion. No, he's
going to show us everything if it takes every second of his two-hour runtime to do
And when that doesn't get the job done, he's going to abandon the psychological
nature of the set-up, turn his main character into the main character from 24 and
turn the mirrors into an arbitrary killing machine with increasingly sophisticated
intelligence. By that point, any novelty the film may have been going for has been
long since trashed. After all, Jack Bauer has a case to crack.
Read more by Chris Bellamy