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3.10.2009

In the Electric Mist

French director Bertrand Tavernier applies a steady hand to the atmospheric In the Electric Mist. The movie is based on James Lee Burke's novel In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead.

It's a good movie, and I'll be starting the book this weekend.

Tavernier puts the setting in the storefront window in this one, and that's a solid choice. It's a beautiful film. After moving to the South from the land of snow-capped mountains, I wondered what all the fuss was about. Brackish cypress creeks and mangrove swamps didn't have much appeal to me back then.

But, like the Spanish moss that festoons just about every green thing in Northeast Florida, the low country has certainly grown on me. There is a beauty in the swamps--and a mystery. It's this mystery that drives Tavernier's film toward a satisfying conclusion.

The pacing is just about right, with enough exposition (the film opens up by briefly flashing Tommy Lee Jones's name on the screen, then cutting to a voice-over) to help us get a feeling for Dave Robicheaux, an honorable cop with questionable tactics. Tommy Lee Jones is only getting better. In a stark contrast to the career arcs of such contemporaries as Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, Jones is delivering the goods in his golden years (not unlike Clint Eastwood). Last year, he gave two of the top ten leading performances in No Country for Old Men and In the Valley of Elah.

Here, he's a delight to watch and even more fun to listen to. His accent is a thing to behold. I'd love to hear him read the audio book version of Burke's novel in just that voice.

Like I said, the film moves well and it covers a lot of territory. We see a little bit of redemption in the story of Elrod Sykes (Peter Sarsgaard--good) and John Goodman is compelling as Baby Feet Balboni.

I missed any publicity for this one in the theaters, and that's a shame. I would have liked to have seen the Louisiana low country on the big screen. If you're looking for a nice film this weekend at your local Blockbuster, you could do a heck of a lot worse than In the Electric Mist (B grade, overall).

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