When Detective Mike Hoolihan is called to investigate the shooting of leading astrophysicist and black hole expert, Jennifer Rockwell, she is affected in ways she struggles to comprehend.
Based on a mysterious Martin Amis novel called ‘Night Train’, Carol Morley’s latest film is a perplexing neo-noir that uses the backdrop of a murder mystery to explore more ambitious themes. The film starts with a monologue about the stars and the cosmos from Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer), a leading astrophysicist, who nonetheless is found dead the following morning from gunshot wounds. Was it a murder or was it a suicide? Or something else entirely? Various clues surrounding the body lead to several lines of inquiry bringing in Rockwell’s family, colleagues and friends, some of whom clearly know more than they’re letting on.
The investigation into Rockwell’s death is led by Detective Mike Hoolihan, a recovering alcoholic who lives for the job (aren’t all cops in noir films?), and she is played by Patricia Clarkson. Clarkson is one of our most underappreciated actresses and she nails the world weariness of Hoolihan, helping to raise the character above the archetype she is written as. I must confess I found this film really difficult to follow, even for a genre that often trades in blind alleys and dead ends, and it struck me as a film reaching for something transcendent and not quite getting there (I found ‘The Falling’, Carol Morley’s last film, to be similarly impenetrable). The film sets itself up as a complex mystery, yet uses lots of exposition with no subtlety. Like Schrodinger’s cat, which is laboriously referenced throughout, this is a film that manages to be both quite interesting and also quite bad at the same time.
The resolution to the central mystery is so blatantly telegraphed that I couldn’t believe the film kept the reveal hidden for so long, and there are several quirky elements thrown in purely for the sake of weirdness – did we really need the twin brothers who finished each others sentences? Distracting. There are good points – namely Clarkson’s central performance and Clint Mansell’s soaring score which reminded me of his fine work on ‘Moon’, but this is a muddled film that is never really clear about what it wants to be. ‘Out of Blue’ is an intriguing watch but in its attempts to be many things at once, it ends up being none. A film with promise and not without merit, but ultimately ‘Out of Blue’ is a film that never manages to coalesce into a satisfying experience.
Directed By: Carol Morley
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Mamie Gummer, Toby Jones, James Caan, Jacki Weaver, Aaron Tveit and Jonathan Majors