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Revisiting A Simple Plan

April 11th, 2008

After watching the gripping horror film The Ruins, I could not help but think of Scott Smith’s first book and movie A Simple Plan. While the book was very popular and a best-seller, the movie never really caught on at the box office. That’s too bad because the movie is great. It’s a smart, suspenseful look at the corrupting influence of greed and told in cold, lonely tones of white and dreary gray. The story concerns what happens when two brothers and their redneck friend stumble upon a downed plane filled with $4 million dollars. Good sense gives way to greed and even the simplest of plans begins to go awry.

Directed with a quiet restraint by horror veteran Sam Raimi, A Simple Plan is about many things. All human. Greed, guilt, family, loyalty and betrayal. Billy Bob Thornton is excellent as the sad brother Jacob who is a lot smarter than he seems and Bill Paxton’s Everyman portrayal of Hank leaves enough unsaid to allow us to put ourselves in the situation and ask what we would do. The performances by all the actors are pitch perfect and this movie has my vote for one of the best films of the 1990’s.

For those of you who haven’t read it, the novel A Simple Plan differs from the movie in the second half but it equally good. I would have a hard time choosing which one is better. The streamlined story and stronger themes of the movie or the harrowing suspense and character work of the book. Either way, you’re dealing with a story that shows ordinary people like you and me capable of monstrous deeds.

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