Some new Thing, Corneau’s Love Crime teams pair of lethal ladies

by Mark Burger

The new version of The Thing ( ) holds some sort of cinematic distinction in that it’s a prequel to a remake, made almost 30 years later. John Carpenter’s 1982 version, now widely hailed as a science-fiction classic, was not well-received upon its initial theatrical release but since found its footing, and its following (much-deserved), in subsequent years.

The first adaptation of John W. Campbell Jr.’s classic short story Who Goes There?was the 1951 Howard Hawks production The Thing (from Another World) — itself a classic, despite having streamlined and simplified Campbell’s story. The Carpenter version engineered Campbell’s original notion of an alien being able to replicate other creatures to maximum effect, augmented by special effects that were groundbreaking in their day.

The makers of this Thing retain the oppressive, claustrophobic tone of Carpenter’s film yet do so in a respectful way that neither insults its predecessor nor diminishes its own intent. In many ways, this version is forced to cover much of the same narrative arc: The alien is discovered. The alien gets loose. The characters must ascertain what, precisely, this “thing” is and what it can do, then consider who among their number is no longer what they seem, as well as determining a way to destroy the menace before it spreads. The Thing is not so much a whodunit as a “who-is-it,” and the themes of loss of humanity and individuality retain their potency here.

Having a little-known cast adds to the story’s paranoia. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays an American paleontologist drafted into assisting the Norwegian scientists who have discovered the alien spacecraft in Antarctica. She soon wishes she hadn’t, but once “things” start happening she proves her mettle and her ability with a flamethrower. Ulrich Thomsen, Joel Edgerton and Eric Christian Olsen are appropriately ambiguous in pivotal roles. Who’s human and who’s not? Nobody’s saying for sure.

It is to director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s credit that the film works well on its own terms and in its own right. Once the Thing makes its appearance, there’s almost no let-up, with plenty of suspense, action and suitably grotesque special effects (CGI this time around).

Alain Corneau’s Love Crime ( ) is a crisp, cool thriller in the Hitchcock mold that offers a fabulous showcase for leading ladies Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier, pitted against each other in an escalating battle of wills.

Christine (Scott Thomas) is a highpowered executive for an international corporation, and Isabelle (Sagnier) her prized protege. Christine is clearly grooming Isabelle for success, but she also has a penchant for putting the younger woman in her place — by means more foul than fair. Isabelle, however, proves to be a quick learner, as adept at cutthroat behavior as her mentor.

In recent years, Scott Thomas has proven herself a versatile and powerful actress in a variety of roles, but (not unlike Meryl Streep of late) she’s especially fun to watch playing icy, elegant, manipulative characters. In Love Crime she’s in her element and clearly having a wickedly good time, particularly in the scenes where she parries with Sagnier.

Playing a more sympathetic but less stable character, Sagnier offers a careful yet confident shading on Isabelle, all the better to retain the character’s mystery. Isabelle is a woman of surprising resolve, as crafty and manipulative as Christine, as it transpires — and perhaps taking it to the next level.

Love Crime (Crime d’amour) is also a fitting swan song for director/co-screenwriter Corneau, the award-winning filmmaker who died last year at age 67. (In French with English subtitles)

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