Dead Again (1991)
In 1948, a gifted and wealthy composer is executed for the brutal murder of his beautiful wife. In the present day, an amnesiac woman (Emma Thompson) turns up at an orphanage, claiming to suffer from nightmarish flashbacks to the 1948 murder. A young private investigator (Kenneth Branagh) begins to delve deeper and finds that both he and the amnesiac bear a striking physical resemblences to the deceased composer and his spouse. An antique-dealing hypnotist (Derek Jacobi) sets out to help them unravel the mystery…..
Right from a titles sequence which showcases a 1940s newspaper headline of MURDER, Kenneth Branagh’s Hitchcockian thriller is a sight for sore cinematic eyes. Branagh’s fondness for flush visuals and theatrical exuberance gives us a well-staged exercise in suspense, psychological terror and ill-fated romance. Admittedly there’s quite a lot of pomp for an edgy thriller and to enjoy this film fully, you’ll need to look beyond it.
The supporting cast gushes with talent; but it’s worth highlighting 3 roles specifically; those of Derek Jacobi, Andy Garcia and Robin Williams. Jacobi is the mischevious hypnotist with a strange desire to solve Grace’s amnesia; Garcia plays the sleazy 1940s reporter who, now barely alive, may just well hold the secret to the original murder and William’s gives a soured performance as a struck-off and devilishly embittered psychiatrist.
When running parallel narratives – moreover in different decades – it’s always important for the editing to be spot-on. Not only is the editing here extremely competent, it gives the film a real dynamism as we switch between a cold 1940s gothic mansion and the dusty backroom of a run-down antiques shop.
We can sometimes forget what made the thriller genre so popular. It was the magnetic pull of three things: excitement, anticipation and mystery. Branagh as a director clearly understands that, and he pulls together a film which is both pictorially sound for critics and deliciously enticing to the audience. The real key to Branagh’s success here is that he doesn’t let the cat-out-of-the-bag until the film’s final 15 minutes but once he does, the film reaches a voltaic apex.
Every much as racy a melodrama as you might expect from someone with Branagh’s bard-ish background, “Dead Again” (1991) is one of the richest thrillers of the 90s. Less blatant a homage to the master of suspense than De Palma’s efforts, this movie sits comfortably as a stylish substitute and companion piece to the likes of “Rebecca” (1940) and “Vertigo” (1958).
Hotdog rating: 8.5/10