Released in 2004, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 11 Jul 2004 by Scott Morris
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I'm sure at some point there was a rational reason for this film progressing past its initial pitch. With the cloning brouhaha showing few signs of dying even after Dolly the sheep has and the recent Clonaid claims, there's clearly a movie to be made regarding the mechanics and ethics of human cloning. Unfortunately Godsend is little more than a pseudoscience laden festival of turgidity that somehow managed to acquire a decent budget and a talented cast clearly befuddled by the vast, multi-tiered staggering wrongheadedness of the affair.

The Duncan family are a happy little bunch, at least until Paul (Greg Kinnear) and Jessie (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos)'s son Adam (Cameron Bright) is killed in a tragic car-kid interface scenario. Before their first-born's corpse has even reached room temperature they grieving couple are approached by the reclusive Dr. Richard Wells (Robert De Niro, or Bobby Dee as we know him in this neck of the woods). While offering tea and sympathy he also throws in a more intriguing prospect, the possibility of cloning Adam. Despite Paul's misgivings they go ahead with the procedure, moving to a secluded community built around Wells' Godsend institution to hide their hugely illegal pact from their friends and family.

Everything goes swimmingly until Adam Duncan II hits his eighth birthday, just after the age of his previous incarnations messy end. Adam's dreams become haunted by nightmarish visions of murder and burning schools, and his behaviour takes a turn for the surly and bizarre. While Dr. Wells dismisses this as little more than a case of 'night terrors', Paul is a little more concerned and undertakes an investigation that shows that the characters inside Adam's head may be a little more substantial than he'd imagined.

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Were Godsend aiming to be little more than a stock scary movie the fact that it's central scientific premise is a complete invention for narrative purposes then we might have been inclined to cut it a slight amount of slack, although it would still remain as terrifying a prospect as nice sit down and a nice garibaldi with a nice cup of cocoa. As it stands, it attempts to make some incredibly heavy handed points about ethics and religious debates surrounding it. First clone being called Adam? Okay. Very mildly frantic railing against creationism (spoken in a burning church for a +50% symbolism modifier)? Check. Complete irrelevance of said points to the actual crisis facing the hapless individuals suffering the events of the film? Indeedy.

Bolted on as said thoughts are from the meat and bones of the film, they're a welcome distraction from the less than thrilling action that's resolutely failing to do much of any note. Not that it's necessarily been crafted in a way too dissimilar to the bulk of its thriller/chiller stablemates, but the cast seem to realise the futility of their efforts early doors and throw in the towel about four minutes in. Poor Rebecca Romijn-Stamos tries more than the rest, bless her little cotton socks, but her role in proceedings rather neatly reduces to a few tear-filled scenes in the stories setup before spending the rest of the film cheering from the sidelines. Even as the supposed focus of the movie, little Cameron Bright has little to do bar stare vacantly into the distance on occasion although the one moment where he channels the kid from The Shining (sans croaky delivery of 'Redrum', sadly) is as close as this flick gets to scary.

Nope, the bulk of the film concerns a power struggle between Paul and Dr. Wells for Adam's affection and perhaps well-being, with the occasional aforementioned jaunt into more philosophical terms. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing given that Kinnear is a pretty good actor and Bobby Dee is, well, Bobby Dee. Sadly, to say that both actors haven't brought their A-game is to waste a perfectly good opportunity to say they haven't brought any game at all. Kinnear maintains a flat attitude of detachment throughout that ruins any hope of buying into his struggle against the ridiculous affliction his on-screen son is saddled with and Bobby Dee seems to be swiping a page from the Morgan Freeman paycheck only motivation playbook, a rare bum note from the maestro.

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I suppose we'll have to level much of the blame for this at director Nick Hamm's door; after all with his theatrical experience he ought to be able to get something more than the bare minimum from this kind of cast. Perhaps he's not as comfortable with producing for the silver screen, but when his actors show little emotional investment in the work it's difficult for an audience to correspondingly invest any emotion in the story. Of course, he's not helped by Mark Bomback's banal dialogue and laughable pseudoscience.

We can only assume that this film seemed like a good idea at the time, or perhaps Bomback or Hamm have some incriminating photos of the execs at Lions Gate. There is a time and a place for serious discussion of serious issues, and just as Runaway Jury proves that debate of gun control laws have no place in a silly mid-budget courtroom drama Godsend proves that a silly mid-budget horror ought not to enter the realms of ethical debates of scientific issues.

Godsend commits the gravest of all cinematic sins - it's boring, reducing us to performing poor Brian Blessed impersonations to while away the time. That this occurs even with such talent behind it is disappointing to the verge of criminal, which may be why we're being a touch harsh on it. Still, there's nothing much to appreciate in here, and certainly nothing to recommend. You'd be better off watching Gattaca while employing someone to make the occasional loud noise to startle you occasionally, as at least then it'd only slightly ruin a decent film which is a lot more than you'll get out of Godsend.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

Nick Hamm
Cast list:
Greg Kinnear (Paul Duncan)
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Jessie Duncan)
Robert De Niro (Richard Wells)
Cameron Bright (Adam Duncan)