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USA/Canada 2011
Directed by
Martin Donovan
87 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Anyone who likes well-written chamber pieces will appreciate actor-turned-writer/director Martin Donovan's debut film.

Donovan plays a playwright, Robert Longfellow, whose star is waning. He leaves New York and his problems, including his wife (former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur), and goes to Los Angeles to visit his mother (Katherine Helmond) in the family home. There he also catches up with actress (Olivia Williams) and, quite unexpectedly, a neighbour, Gus (David Morse), a man with a serious anti-social problems who ends up taking him hostage.

There are two main axes to the success of the film – the script and the performances. The former takes the hostage thriller and gives it a laconic, literary makeover – at times one hears hints of Mamet’s rhythmic stylings in the exchanges between the two leads – cleverly moving between the dualism of two guys shooting the breeze and a sociopath toying with his hostage without in any way losing the tension that is integral to the genre. Directorially one can’t help but think that with its psychological game-playing this is a film that Polanski would love to have directed.  

The performances are all effective, with Donovan, Morse and Williams convincing despite the consistently restrained tone of the film. Although there is a turn at the end involving Robert’s marital situation that feels a little strained, Collaborator is a winner both as intelligent story-telling and a fine example of filmic craftsmanship.




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