Director Roman Polanski, hiding out in France, delivers a classic Hitchcockian tale of an average man unwittingly dropped into the middle of dangerous international events.
Frantic works, thanks to an understated Harrison Ford performance, a deliberately measured pace that allows the characters to develop, and action scenes that stay within the bounds of reason. Polanski's stylistic touches are also a definite plus.
Dr. Richard Walker (Ford) arrives in Paris with his wife (Betty Buckley) to present a paper at a medical conference. Within hours, his wife has been kidnapped, and her violent abduction appears to be related to a mix-up in the Walkers' baggage. Walker does not know the language, gets no help from local authorities and even less help from the American embassy. His only ally emerges in the form of Michelle (Emmanuelle Seigner, or Mrs. Polanski), the mule in the middle of the Middle East-connected smuggling conspiracy that has entangled Walker.
The basic plot elements of an innocent man entering a foreign world, literally and figuratively, then having to extricate himself from a complex web not of his own making, is pure Hitchcock. Frantic also comes with a nested McGuffin, as first a piece of luggage, then a souvenir found in the luggage, then an item hidden in the souvenir, serve no purpose except to power the plot forward.
And with the character of Michelle, who admittedly is more cool than icy, Polanski does not forget about the blonde girl who is definitely involved in the messy situation, but who may or may not be helping resolve it.
Frantic is a welcome reminder that not all heroes need to be ex-special forces, and that sometimes, the most difficult challenge is to understand why your sheltered world has suddenly been shattered.
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