A Simple Plan
Winter in Minnesota is a time of sleep. Snow blankets the lonely plains. The dark skeletons of the sleeping trees stand still. Everything is waiting for the thaw of the spring. In the midst of the stillness is a town. And in this homely cold town live two brothers.
The story is a simple one. These two brothers (Hank and Jacob) and a friend (Lou) stumble across a crashed plane, frozen in the timelessness of the white forest. In it, lays the pilot, eyes plunked out courtesy of the friendly crows and a bag filled with 4 million dollars cash. Hank, being the accountant, decides to hold the cash until Spring. If by then, when the plane is found and no one comes to collect to dough, it will be split three ways.
Form the opening moments, I could not help but be reminded of the bleak stark settings of Fargo and Misery. That claustrophobia induced in both of these films resonates and in A Simple Plan. The snow gives me a no way in, no way out feeling. The perfect setting for a tense thriller. The protagonists are stuck and have to think ten steps ahead. Tracks can be easily traced or easily lost. Nervous tension builds between three. From tension, paranoia grows. With the rush of paranoia, everybody becomes the enemy. And as with Shallow Grave, paranoia, mistrust and enemies lead to murder.
The brothers are Hank and Jacob. Hank is a get up and go type of guy, but plans for a successful life has gone a little backwards. He and his wife are trying their best to handle the fact that they are back where they started and are struggling. Hank spends his days in the local mill, and his wife spends her days with a fake smile plastered on her face. Life is tough, they need to get out of this position.
Jacob initially comes across as a harmless simpleton. The town fool who has yet to kiss a girl. But with the aid of an intelligent script and fine acting by Billy Bob Thornton, the temptation to sentimentalise Jacob is avoided. In fact, underneath the dolt-like imagine shines a light of true humanity, love and wiseness that some people may call greatness. When Joe is on screen the film shines, the guy is a walking symbolism for nature and kindness.
This film is really about Shakespearean -like bonds. Bonds between friends and loved ones. Deceit and murder shatter the foundations of these relationships. Take a look at Bridget Fondas' sweet manipulative wife routine. She is the Eve to the Adam of Hank. When Hank comes home after finding the four million he asks her what she would do. She gives the decent person response and says she would turn it over to the police. But when she sees the money, its a different kettle of fish. She plans the blackmail safety plans and body disposals, then getting Hank to carry out the deeds. WOMEN.
Keeping in the Shakespeare theme all the lies and dead bodies seem to bring the two completely different brother closer than they have ever been before. The film has some deeply touching moments between them, one being a "Remember when Mom used to put us to bed" type scene. There is a real history between the two.
Sam Rami shows a maturity with the direction of this film that I am glad to see he has. After coming from his Evil Dead films, his work here just shows that he can control material with reality. Staying wisely clear of an outrageous vicious circle of murders, Rami sticks close to his characters and their dealing with a deteriorating situation.
A Simple Plan is one of those films that will fade away. It will be remembered cinema lovers, forgotten by everybody else. A fine film, sitting just behind Fargo and Misery.