The Others

It has spooky atmosphere, a wicked twist of an ending and an ice-cold grabber of a performance by Nicole Kidman as Grace, a mother who isolates her two children in a Victorian mansion on the British isle of Jersey near the end of World War II. Grace, who fears her husband (Christopher Eccleston) has died in battle, keeps her two kids — Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley) — in the dark. Literally. She tells the new housekeeper (the expert Fionnula Flanagan) that daylight will cause fits in Anne and Nicholas. Curtains must always be drawn and doors firmly locked. Then the noises start, and the visions and the strange voices.

No fair revealing more plot details. But you should know that The Others is the American feature debut of the gifted young Spanish director Alejandro Amenebar, whose 1998 film, Open Your Eyes, has been remade as Vanilla Sky (due December 14th) by director Cameron Crowe and stars Tom Cruise, who served as co-producer on The Others before his marriage to Kidman went kaput. It's not hard to see what Cruise sees in Amenebar — this is a filmmaker who knows how to hold an audience with artful stealth. Only some bumpy, arid passages in the script keep The Others out of the master class occupied by the likes of The Sixth Sense and, my favorite, 1961's The Innocents, based on Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. When it comes to turning the screws of psychological terror, Amenebar is an expert technician.

From The Archives Issue 876: August 30, 2001