Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh (Mike Church); Emma Thompson (Grace); Andy Garcia (Gray Baker); Hanna Schygulla (Inga), and Derek Jacobi (Madson).
In what is a clear homage to such classics as REBECCA and VERTIGO. Kenneth Branagh might not live up to the genius of Alfred Hitchcock, but he certainly knows how to make an enjoyable and old fashioned murder mystery.
In this bipolar tale of jealousy, passion, and murder, the viewer is led down an intriguing path of past lives forever intertwined with present fears. Comedic actor Robin Williams, in a wonderful cameo performance as a defrocked psychiatrist, explains it best. It is the karmic credit plan. Play NOW. Pay FOREVER.
Branagh, whose broad American accent is almost believable, brings a spunky, yet cynical, appeal to detective Mike Church. Called back to the Gothic mansion that once sheltered him as an orphan, Church is mesmerized by the helpless and mysterious Grace played by Emma Thompson. Grace, it seems, showed up at the wrought iron gates of the mansion suffering from nightmares and amnesia. If that were not enough, Grace has been struck mute from some unknown trauma. Church is inexplicably drawn to help Grace find her true identity along with her voice and memory.
Responding to a news story that Church has placed in the paper, Derek Jacobi, as the effeminate and slightly unscrupulous antique dealer, Madson. Madson, responding to the newspaper ad, quickly becomes a key component of this mystery. Madson puts Grace under hypnosis to discover what trauma may have triggered her amnesia and muteness. This seems to be a common business practice of his. As an antique dealer by trade, he has often used hypnosis to discover where he can find hidden treasures to add to his trove of priceless antiques for his shop. What Madson is unprepared for is, however, the shock he will receive when Grace travels back to a past live that links a death in the Forties with the events of the present day in Los Angeles.
With parallel stories set in the City of Angels, Branagh deftly cuts between his scenes of the Forties, shot in black and white, and color film used to identify present day events. Branagh keeps the pace lively and the suspense, enhanced by the ominous score by Patrick Doyle, continues to add tension along with a hint of romance right up to the final frame. This film has one of the most surprising twist endings of recent movies. What might have been a confusing story line becomes both entertaining and compelling. Past lives, murder, secrets, reincarnation? While viewing DEAD AGAIN it is easy to suspend belief and agree that, it is not over, until it is over!