In this psychological thriller, fear, paranoia, conspiracy theories, and claustrophobia link a deranged man and woman in a grungy motel room. This is the eerie screen version of Tracy Letts' play by the same title. Is there a conspiracy by the military and the U.S. government — or is it in their minds? Nothing is quite as it seems.
The screenplay adapted from Tracy Letts' 2004 off-Broadway success is a mind-bending nightmarish tale from director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist). In a southwestern town, residents seem to be making ends meet on a daily basis. Such people are Agnes (Ashley Judd) who lives in a shabby desert motel and tends bar in a local dive with her lesbian friend R.C. (Lynn Collins) and suffers from the loss of her son who disappeared suddenly years prior. Agnes is living in fear of her abusive, recently paroled ex-husband Jerry (Harry Connick Jr). It doesn't help any that she has a cocaine habit, because the drug adds to her fear with paranoia.
One night at the watering hole where she works, R.C. introduces Agnes to an eccentric, nervous drifter named Peter (Michael Shannon). The strange and subdued Peter hangs out with Agnes one night claiming sex is not on his mind, but Agnes is lonely and a relationship between the two develops. The two characters pair off in offbeat and weird performances emphasizing desperation in their need for one another.
Soon after, Jerry the ex-husband shows up and friction is in the air. Harry Connick Jr. brings a sly and wormy presence to the screen in his character, which fortifies Ashley Judd's character's fear of him, but his part in the film seems to be limited.
Peter tells Agnes about a "bug" he contracted while in the military stationed in the Middle East and how it was deliberately planted in him. He convinces her that he carries the trait and perhaps it's a master plan that she's carrying the female bug that reproduces. All this seems to work well in the film, until military doctor Sweet (Brian F. O'Bryne) enters into the story and proclaims that Peter is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. It also complicates the plot with new elements of secret military experiments as the meat of the story.
This forces the actors and the story to go south, because the tempo of the film becomes more of an obsession with rage, hysteria, and gore. Unlike the off-Broadway play, where its success was built upon its emotional intensity, the film version tries to excite the audience with grotesque scenes and gory camera work. The question of what is real in this movie and what is in the minds of the characters can be interpreted by whoever sees the film. Nevertheless, the main actors give outstanding performances with a challenging script.
Directed by: William Friedkin
Running time: 102 mins.
Release date: May 25, 2007
Genre: Drama, Thriller and Adaptation
MPAA Rating: R