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Movie Review: X-Files – I Want To Believe

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Don’t let negative reviews and diminishing box office returns fools you. X-Files: I Want to Believe is actually a good movie. By the time I saw the movie on the morning of its third day of release I had already seen a plethora of unenthusiastic reviews and poor weekend box office results. I prepared myself for the worst. But the worst is not what I got — far from it.

X-Files: I Want To Believe is a fast paced thriller full of unpredictable twists and turns. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson easily fall back into their roles as Mulder and Scully, albeit not exactly the same Mulder and Scully we last saw. Now a wanted man, Mulder spends his days hiding from the FBI in isolation. It is painful to see his paranormal investigations reduced to clipping newspaper articles and pinning them to the wall of his cluttered office. His “I Want To Believe” poster still hangs nearby, a reminder of his never-ending quest to find the truth.

Scully is now a practicing medical doctor. She spends her days at a small Catholic hospital. Like on the show, she is still wrestles with her faith in God and her reliance on scientific fact. Scully must confront her indecision when she is faced with a moral decision in the treatment of a terminally ill child. Should she use radical and painful treatments that may or may not save his life, or leave his illness “in God’s hands?” It is at this time the FBI comes back into her life.

The FBI is searching for a missing agent and the only clues to be had are a severed arm buried several feet in the snow and the ramblings of a self-proclaimed psychic. They need Mulder’s help. If Scully can unearth Mulder and convince him to help, all his past “crimes” will be forgiven. No longer caring about Mulder’s constant prying into government cover-ups, the FBI has forgotten all about the X-Files. But have the fans forgotten?

Well, maybe not forgotten, but six years gave fans a long time to imagine what a new Scully and Mulder adventure might involve. Perhaps its rather terrestrial plot is not what they had in mind. Couple that with an ill-timed post-Dark Knight release and a practically non-existent ad campaign and you’ve got a recipe for disappointment at the box office.

Take away all the baggage and the movie works. The story seems somewhat benign at first. Missing persons and severed arms are not all that extraordinary after all. But the arm was discovered because a psychic (brilliantly played by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly) led them to the location – a barren, snow-covered field with no visible landmarks. And the psychic is not just an ordinary psychic (because in the world of X-Files psychics are somewhat commonplace), but he is a defrocked pedophile priest who lives in the creepiest sex-offender halfway house of all time. Is the psychic real, is he just looking for some sort salvation, or is he in on the crime? The story unfolds like an onion, each layer revealing something even more horrifying than the last.

Plenty of thematic elements from the television show are present in this movie. Scully still doubts and Mulder still wants to believe. The central force of Mulder and Scully’s unwavering partnership is still the glue that holds the whole thing together. As always there is that struggle between faith, be it in the unknown or in God, and science. Scully’s moral dilemma concerning her young patient eerily parallels that of the ominous man who may be responsible for the strange events. The question for all involved becomes whether the ends justify the means and the edges of morality and malice become blurred.

And while the movie poses these questions it does not answer them, allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions on such heavy topics. In the meantime the movie offers a lot of excitement and action and plenty of strange phenomena for Mulder and Scully to sink their teeth into.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.
  • Jacob C

    Nice to see someone else who liked the movie for what it is. Not flashy brilliance, just good storytelling. Too low-key for a summer release, should have come out in october or something.

  • Reynard Muldrake

    A movie critic who thinks for herself in the midst of summer blockbusters should be applauded.

    I loved how central the themes of faith and forgiveness were to the film.

    Faith cannot be understood without doubt. Characters find it hard to believe how God might be working but are told, “Don’t give up.”

    Forgiveness becomes the only way to overcome the doubt. The need for forgiveness is powerful and is also the very thing that provides a chance at redemption. Faith in God, seen only through forgiveness’ “dirty glass.”

    Simultaneous parallel stories with superb acting and cinematography. It unfolds a layer at a time, each time, bringing a new surprising dimension to the story.

  • Derek Fleek

    I also agree. A solid sci-fi thriller that is both interesting and daring. Disregard the poor reviews. I even liked it more than the first X-Files film. Great review Sherry.

  • ellen

    Sherry! You and I must have seen the same film! I’d read all the negative reviews. As an old fan of the TV show I loved the Mulder and Scully dynamic. Loved loved this movie. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are magic on screen. I was actually pleased it was a stand alone story and did not involve the shows mythology or conspiracy. And, Skinner rocks.

  • http://soonerthought.blogspot.com/2008/07/quick-review-x-files-i-want-to-believe.html SoonerThought

    Agreed! I have similar sentiments in my review of this good film on my site. Click on my URL to read it.

  • http://www.xfilesnews.com tdevol

    This is a great review. Thankfully, someone gets it! The movie was wonderful and it gets better each time I see it. 5 times and counting now, I’ve got some competition going on with other philes so I will be at the movies again this weekend!

  • CSM

    Thanks for the review. I thought the movie rocked. Why can’t Fox bring it back to TV?

  • shannon

    So glad to hear some good reviews are out there! I can’t wait to see the film, will go see it a good few times! Get that boxoffice number growing!

  • Michael Australia

    Saw it last night and despite it’s pedestrian approach and lack of thrills I would have to say it’s one of my favourate movies of all time. – Why? Because it showed Scully still as a woman of science demanding answers and facts in the face of things that cannot be explaned. I think too many people put their baggage onto the film and it is ok to expect thrills. But personally, I don’t care if they are lovers or whatever, it’s nice to see them back and one more movie would be great. I don’t believe they have run out of steam, and yes the film is not tense and all over the place but like Dario Argento’s Inferno, style over substance works. Well done Chris Carter, ignore the critics, box office money is important, but this film is moving, brillant and well worth seeing.