Brad Anderson’s eclectic career as a director is mostly due to his ability to avert strict genre conventions. Whether it’s a political thriller, neo-noir, introspective drama or high-intensity procedural, Anderson’s work behind the camera molds to adhere to the subject matter; this at times can appear to be a positive and a negative.
With Fractured, writer Alan B. McElroy toes the line between a 90s Hollywood spec thriller and lo-fi paranoia deftly. At its heart is a somewhat compelling mystery – a recovering alcoholic Ray (Sam Worthington) is driving home from a Thanksgiving get together with his wife Joanne (Lily Rabe) and daughter Peri (Lucy Capri) when Peri falls into a construction site at a rest-stop. Worried she may have broken her arm, Ray takes his family to the closest hospital and waits whilst his wife goes with his daughter to have a scan… the only problem is when Ray awakes hours later the staff tell him they have no memory of Joanne or Peri and that he came in alone. Has Ray lost it or is the hospital and its staff hiding something sinister within the floors below?
The film’s subject matter and cold, vast opening visuals recreate a mechanical directorial style. It’s easy to harken back to films of a similar tone including Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia and Scorsese’s Shutter Island, and for a while the film feels as if it’s justifying this strange dissonance in its presentation. Anton Sanko’s goosebump-fuelling brief skewered piano cues benefit a fittingly-strange central performance from Worthington in the first half hour as the complicated initial incident unfolds. Anderson plays up the general paranoia of hospital appointments and even dedicates time to the frustrating admin side of ordeals. But Ray’s inherent focus is the wellbeing of his family, and he’s dedicated to keep them safe at all costs no matter how many glances and stares the nurses and doctors give him.
The film’s cliched editing style and stark camerawork appear endearing through the elongated setup, and you find yourself attempting to harness every piece of information you can as it may be utilised later on in the film’s mystery (which is difficult when a lot of expository dialogue ensures a slow grind). Instead though, Fractured sticks closely to its 90s counterparts, films like The Bone Collector which offer engagement as a nicety rather than a necessity. It’s perhaps my fault for wanting a layered experience, something Anderson has done with a similar premise in Session 9. Instead of asking the audience to remain active when solving the mystery alongside Ray, it merely asks them to follow him alongside it until all the answers are given in a traditional format.
This arguably wouldn’t sound so negative if it wasn’t for the talent behind the camera. Anderson’s well-versed enough to be offering up complex genre fare, something that Fractured is unashamedly not. Instead, his clinical and grim aesthetic keeps close to Ray throughout and applies suitable pressure to the performers. Worthington’s work as Ray feels shallow but on the surface adequately keeps up with the narrative’s twists and turns. It’s a difficult role and one that would have easily muddled the entire experience had an assured middle-ground not been found, but instead Ray’s low self-esteem and dark past test the actor’s larynx and have him stare off into the distance at all the right moments to become interesting rather than boring. The hospital staff unfortunately are the opposite, and range from falsified nice workers (Stephen Tobolowski’s Dr. Berthram) to antagonistic background characters (pretty much everyone else). It’s perhaps a wise choice for such a methodically-plotted film, as too many components could easily confuse even the most active of viewers, yet it’s difficult not to hope for more.
When the film’s answers are finally revealed, much of Anderson, McElroy and cinematographer Björn Charpentier’s efforts feel wasted too. From the beginning the film’s presentation offers up a consistent nauseating and foreboding tone, the kind most other films don’t engage with up until their second halves. Mini revelations and plot threads are teased and dropped at will, but it’s all in vain because of the film’s desire to follow the well-worn path of schlocky thrillers from the past. Fractured actually manages to keep these circus plates spinning for longer than most, but it lacks the ambition to stick the landing. Still, it’s entertaining to watch them spin…