Really wanted to like 'The Visitors' so much more. Am a great admirer of Elia Kazan, really like to love almost all his films (his best work being iconic classics and even lesser work is watchable) and deeply respect his directing of actors, of which he is rightly considered one of the best at and it is obvious in almost all his films. Also have often gotten a lot of fun out of James Woods', in his debut here, ability to steal every scene he is in in most of his films, regardless of my negative feelings of him as a person he is always a lot of fun to watch.
'The Visitors' just didn't do it for me, though it does have its moments. It is Kazan's penultimate film and is the only one to actually properly not feel like it was directed by him, this could easily have passed for being mistaken for a film from somebody else entirely. The subject was really intriguing and difficult and could have made for a hard-hitting and emotional experience, but not near enough is done with it despite the promising start. Being somebody that dislikes concept-wastes, that did frustrate me. As far as Kazan's work goes, 'The Visitors' to me is one of his worst.
As said, 'The Visitors' has good points. The scenery is both beautiful and unforgiving, which suited the subject brilliantly. The music is suitably ominous, again fitting. The film starts off very suspensefully and intriguingly, and has moments that are quite shocking. The best scenes are actually the ones that are the hardest to watch.
Scenes that will be too upsetting for some. The dog murder and the rape being the most memorable. 'The Visitors' sees Woods at his most vulnerable, subtle and touching without showing signs of inexperience, words not usually commonly associated with Woods' performances generally. Not a bad thing just to say, just an observation. Steve Railsback plays his even meatier role with steely intensity. Patricia Joyce and Patrick McVey are also very good, McVey being the most experienced of the four and that experience shows.
Kazan's usual directorial brilliance unfortunately doesn't really come through here in 'The Visitors'. Here it was like he was uninterested in the material or not at ease with it, all his other films were far more engagingly, intensely and tastefully directed, whereas this just didn't feel like a Kazan film visually or tonally. 'The Visitors' is also perhaps his least accomplished film visually, scenery aside. Despite having serious problems with 'The Sea of Grass' and from memory 'The Last Tycoon', at least they were well made, visually this was uncharacteristically amateurish work. Very sloppy and disorganised, which cannot be said about Kazan usually.
Despite the promising start, 'The Visitors' badly under-explores the great idea it has. The hard-hitting and emotion only come in spurts, most of the time it's dreary and meandering furthermore done in bad taste. The pace is at its worst interminably dull and there is far too much talk. None of it really that interesting. The story lacks atmosphere and the complex subject matter could have done with a far more pull no punches and nuanced approach, as it comes over as indifferent and bland generally apart from some good moments. There is not really that much interesting about the characters, the only character to get some development is Nickerson.
On the whole, watchable for curiosity and completest sake but not a great or good representation of Kazan. 5/10
Crime / Drama
Crime / Drama
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Bill, Martha and their little child Hal are spending a quiet winter Sunday in their cosy house when they get an unexpected visit from Mike Nickerson and Tony Rodriguez. Mike and Tony are old acquaintances of Bill; a few years back, in Vietnam, they were in the same platoon. They also became opposed parties in a court martial - for a reason that Bill never explained to Martha. What happened in Vietnam, and what is the reason for the presence of Mike and Tony ?
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