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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
The Pledge: Press views
Jack Nicholson, Aaron Eckhart and Sam Shepard in The Pledge
The Pledge is not a straightforward thriller
Press reviews of The Pledge.

The Guardian

It is a movie that might disconcert those who are led to expect a straight-up-and-down thriller, and indeed some American consumers seem to have complained that what they read on the label wasn't what they got in the can. But what they got - and what we've got - is a distinctive, demanding, deeply intelligent picture from a first-class director and with a glorious star performance from Nicholson.

The Independent

In this - Penn's third outing as a director - he does seem to be improving technically even if, in his obsession with quality-detail and quality-actors, he still somehow seems to be missing the whole. As with all of his movies, The Pledge has the unavoidable air of a sophomore vanity-project. Luckily, Penn's vanity is so full of baroque curlicues that he can just about get away with it.

The Daily Telegraph

Sean Penn has finally made the film he has been burning to make. Next time he should consider making a musical, as he won't improve on this gothic thriller, with its perfect danger, its amazing central performance (Nicholson's next Oscar), its beautiful composition and control.

The Times

From being a movie about just another discredited maverick cop who turns out to be vindicated after all and gets the (much younger) girl, The Pledge evolves into a devastating psychological case study. Black may be right, he may be wrong, but he is clearly disturbed, uneasy in his own skin.

London Evening Standard

I do encourage you to see this extraordinary film. Not only is it perfectly acted by a cast of Penn's screen pals, among them Mickey Rourke, Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Shepard, as well as Vanessa Redgrave and Helen Mirren in important cameos. But it gives one the rare pleasure of watching a film in the American mode made with European moral consciousness; by which I mean it makes us revise our impression of what we're seeing and perceive more clearly the real intention of the film.

The Sunday Times

For Jerry, you need a consummate character actor such as Robert Duvall or Gene Hackman. With Nicholson, we get no sense of Jerry's inner life, his fear of loneliness, or his desperate need to catch the killer. The drama of this story should be rooted in Jerry's mind. The Pledge is a tragedy that is missing a King Lear. No wonder Penn needs the easy emotionalism of the serial-killer story line, for without it, he's stuck with a lifeless story, devoid of any drama.

The Observer

Despite the occasional histrionics, Penn is becoming a good and thoughtful director. His previous films, The Indian Runner and The Crossing Guard, boasted good performances but lacked cohesion. The Pledge achieves the stamp of a certain style and is clearly the work of a man probing life's beauty and misery in a determinedly artistic bid to fathom its absurdity. You could now say of Penn what they used to say of Albert Camus: he's on the side of the angels but he gives the devil a damn good run for his money.

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