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Trespass: Dud of Unduly Predictability

By Pam Glazier · October 17, 2011

So, I just finished watching Joel Schumacher’s latest film Trespass, and I now have a headache, feel exhausted despite the fact that I’ve only been awake for about nine hours…and I think the experience may even have given me cramps. I definitely didn’t feel crampy going into this film, but now, yeah, not so good.

The movie is about a rich family who are abducted in their own home by some would-be jewel/cash thieves. It starts off showing Kyle Miller (Nicolas Cage) in his element. He buys and sells high cost diamonds to the super-rich. He seems important as he makes deals on the phone and drives in his fancy car to his fancy house. His beautiful wife Sarah (Nicole Kidman) is at home waiting for him, and his daughter Avery (Liana Liberato) who, even though she is a snarky teenager, is also beautiful and seemingly full of that young person potential that every parent wishes for their child. Tension rises (barely) when it’s clear that Kyle is planning on spending the evening working in his home office despite the fact that Sarah has dressed up and prepared a fancy dinner in order to welcome her husband home from his business trip. Then the predictable break-in happens—predictable because we all saw it a million times in the trailer.

The thieves are violent and they want him to open the safe. He won’t do it because he knows they’ll just kill him and his family if he complies. This goes on for over an hour. They want it open, he won’t do it. As the night progresses, the thief named Elias (Ben Mendelsohn) starts whining about how messed up his life is in an attempt to justify why he needs the money (his mom needs a kidney, he borrowed money from a crime boss and they’re going to kill him if he doesn’t get it back, etc). I suppose he’s trying to get the cash by appealing to the empathetic side of the family he’s violently threatening. It’s just dumb and gets annoying really fast.

Of course, there’s other stuff around this that also happens, but it’s of no real consequence, and I can’t imagine anyone caring. The daughter sneaks out to a party but comes back and gets caught anyway, so it’s as if she’s been there the whole time. One off the thieves, Elias’ brother Jonah (Cam Gigandet), works for the security company that installed the family’s system. That’s how they knew how to rob the place. Jonah is in love with Sarah, so a little tension exists when he thinks the other thieves are going to hurt her. Anyway, it goes on and on like this until the very end where things actually get interesting for a couple seconds before reverting back to predictable, forgettable bleh.

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We learn that there is photographic evidence of Jonah kissing Sarah from the security camera at the house and that Kyle knew about it, but then we learn through flashback that Jonah actually sprung that kiss on Sarah and that she wanted no part of it and asked him to leave. We had learned earlier that he’s supposed to be on anti-psychotics but has replaced his meds with tic-tacs. After this we learn that Jonah is the one who sold out Elias so that he’d have to owe the crime boss all this cash. Jonah did it because it’s part of a plan he formulated to run away with Sarah because he believes that they are soul mates. It’s a really intricate and psycho plan that is so far from interesting that it’s painful.

Now, this is a shame because it was actually well thought out and precisely plotted, but nobody took the time to ensure that the protagonist had an arc. The antagonists have arcs, but the protagonist and his wife and daughter don’t. They simply try not to die, and in the end they are successful. I suppose there’s a mini-moment for the protagonist where he has to come clean to his wife that he’s broke and he’s been pretending this whole time, but that pales in comparison to the situation they find themselves in presently, and there’s lots of cash in the end that sort of appears out of nowhere and then is burned for no reason, and they were already insured anyway so there’s really no stakes there. Do you see what I mean? All this thought and effort and intricacy, but it doesn’t tie in to the visceral experience that should have accompanied it.

Of course, sometimes there are movies where the whole point of the protagonist’s arc is that he remains steady and immovable. Films like Gandhi, or The Last Temptation of Christ. This is not one of those films—or at least, it fails at being one of those films if that type was what the writer was originally going for.

This movie would have been so much better if it had been from the perspective of one of the thieves. They had loads of drama and hope and fear. And, on top of all that, everything was riding on this one big score. What I saw was a predictable robbery movie with an interesting twist that came too late to salvage anything. It could have been a cool character study of a flawed psycho that we’re rooting for anyway. All the questions are in place—will he get the girl, will they get the cash, will Elias find out he betrayed him, will he forgive him if he does, etc. It would have been great. Or they could have focused on his brother—will he be able to survive the crazy danger that psycho-Jonah keeps putting him in? Or they could have even left it mostly the same but revealed that Jonah was a freaking psycho in the very beginning. That would have been tense to sit there and wonder if/when he was going to lose it in a violent hallucinogenic episode and how that would affect the heist.

But it wasn’t any of those things. It was just predicable and boring. And that is really saying something for me because I am a huge fan of Nicolas Cage. This movie was worse than Bangkok Dangerous. It was worse than Season of the Witch (which was really, really terrible). It was worse than The Wicker Man—at least The Wicker Man had the added weird badness that made it kind of enjoyably bad. Yes, if they had actually given Cage some meat to work with, this movie would have been amazing. He should have been cast as Jonah and it should have been about crazy Jonah fighting for the woman he thinks is his soul mate. It would have been great, and there would have been ample scenes of Cage losing his shit all over the place. It would have been popcorn-tastic.

So, skip this stinker unless you have a thing for boring heist films that have no explosions, no cool action, no nudity, and no emotional draw.