Monday, July 28, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)

Belief isn't easy to come by these days. But - despite most reviews - I still believe in The X-Files.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this new film (sub-titled I Want to Believe) arises not from the stars (or the production itself), but from ourselves, and -- specifically -- our expectations.

Based on the savage reviews proliferating on the web and in print, audiences and critics apparently desired a Wrath of Khan, when what they actually get is...The Search for Spock.

In other words, X-Files: I Want to Believe is a more intimate, cerebral adventure than it is a "big event" summer movie. There are virtually no optical special effects in this movie. I could detect no (or very little) CGI. There are few action sequences.

There is little violence of any kind, actually (I don't believe a single gun is fired...). Mulder and Scully never even carry fire-arms, as far as I can detect. And there are no explosions whatsoever.

All the fireworks, rather...are purely human; emotional. Accordingly, the climax is one that relies on the specific nuances of human interaction and relationships, not fights, chases, or gun-fire. The film's success hinges on such old--fashioned elements as atmosphere and mood. A wintry, oppressive location -- West Virginia -- is practically a supporting character here, and the build-up of real suspense is generated through effective use of solid film techniques such as cross-cutting. This is good work, beautifully photographed; it's merely out-of-step with the kind of movies being offered in our cineplexes today.

Honestly, I Want to Believe's greatest failing has nothing to do with what it is; but rather what it is not; what people apparently "wanted" to believe about the form it would take.

One of The X-Files' trademark phrases was "Resist or Serve" and I remembered that catchphrase with bemusement while I watched I Want to Believe. The new movie daringly resists formula and classification. It flouts expectation, and what I've detected so far in the criticism of the film is a total unwillingness to engage with what the movie actually is about. I suppose if a movie isn't exactly like Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, or Dark Knight, well...critics don't know what to make of it.

Audiences apparently feel the same way: the film opened in fourth place this weekend and grossed a disappointing ten million dollars (roughly the same opening week haul of Serenity in 2005). Yet The X-Files I Want to Believe was made cheaply - at under thirty five million dollars. Just a bit of history: that's what it cost, or thereabouts, to make Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in 1989. Almost twenty years ago. At the very least, Carter and his team were frugal...and that fact may be a saving grace for the franchise. Which - reviews to the contrary - has a lot of life and energy left in it. It's only a "dull" or "boring" movie (as critics assert), if you choose not to engage with it.

I Want to Believe picks up six years after the finale of the popular Fox series (which ended in 2002). Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are living together in a small but comfortable house, and Mulder has grown a beard and pretty much retreated from the world. Despite the fact he knows his sister is dead, Mulder has not given up searching for "the truth" about what happened to her. Meanwhile, Scully is a successful medical doctor at a Catholic hospital and enmeshed in the treatment of a very sick little boy; one with a terminal illness.

It's a quiet, relatively "normal" life for the most part; a normality that is shattered when the FBI solicits Mulder's help in solving a new and urgent "X-File" (in return for a pardon...). An F.B.I. agent named Monica Bannon has disappeared in the snows of gloomy West Virginia, and a fallen priest named Father Joe (Billy Connolly) claims to be experiencing psychic visions related to her case. In fact, he leads a team of FBI searchers to a burial ground of body parts in a vast, foreboding ice field (a beautifully-filmed, tense sequence).

But Father Joe may not be credible...in part because of his past. He's a convicted pedophile, you see. Mulder and Scully each boast a different perspective on Father Joe (naturally...), and their viewpoints are so contradictory that these opinions threaten to fracture their (now longstanding...) emotional relationship. This case revives Mulder's obsessive, brooding nature; and it reminds Scully of the darkness she has sought to escape.

So...what is The X-Files: I Want to Believe really about? In a deep, meaningful way, it concerns the concept of redemption. I don't mean that the movie pays lip service to the notion of redemption as that concept currently exists in the superficial popular culture lexicon (see: Angel). There's nothing comfortable or easy about how this film portrays the central moral dilemma. The crimes Father Joe committed against the innocent are utterly monstrous, as Scully rightly points out. Father Joe knows that society will never forgive him, but wonders if God can do so.


And here's where things get....murky. Father Joe castrated himself at age 26 in order to "kill" the horrible, seething appetite that led him to commit such crimes. And now, Father Joe chooses to live in a group home for pedophiles, one where sex offenders live in shame and police each other's behavior. It is a sort of Hell on Earth to live amongst such scum, especially for a Man of God. Are these signs he has changed?

And, of course, Father Joe claims he is experiencing psychic visions about that missing FBI agent, and wants to help the police find her. Is he to be trusted? Would the Divine empower a man like Father Joe with second sight? If his visions are real, are they from God? The Devil? Or is he just an accomplice in Monica's capture...?

The underlying moral quandary is this: What great "right" can undo a great "wrong?" In the fantastic and noble tradition of The X-Files, Scully and Mulder view Father Joe and his predicament in radically different ways. The series always concerned the opposing viewpoints of these two characters, and how their beliefs (and biases) shaped their perception of reality. It's the same thing here. Scully believes Father Joe is a depraved attention-seeking monster, that his visions are a hoax and a cry for attention. Mulder wants to believe that men like Father Joe can change, that redemption is possible, and that Father Joe's psychic visions are legitimate.

Pretty serious stuff. No summer movie featuring a convicted pedophile in a central role is ever going to find popularity in America. That's a fact. We go to movies to escape, generally, not to engage and this may simply be one bridge too far for mass audiences. Father Joe's inclusion and role in the story is a courageous (perhaps even self-destructive) choice on the part of writers Spotnitz and Carter because the film's central dilemma makes audiences confront the idea of real redemption in a very tangible, very challenging, very realistic way.

It is easy to forgive someone who seems heroic; someone who is beautiful; or someone who had an excuse for what he did. But what about forgiving someone for committing the worst crime (a crime against a child...) imaginable? I'm not saying you should forgive; that anyone should forgive. However, if you are not willing to forgive Father Joe, there are repercussions to that decision. The biggest one is that you can't say you believe in redemption, can you? If you don't let "good works" account for something in the cosmic tally of morality, you can't claim you believe in forgiveness, either. Nor can you claim to be a Christian, because forgiveness is the very crucible -- the beating heart -- of Christianity. I'm not condoning any particular interpretation....just commenting on the moral implications of this film. It will challenge your beliefs, and force you to evaluate what you think when the decision "to forgive" is not easy; not superficial.

I still can't believe a mainstream film (and a franchise film; and a sequel, for god's sake...) tread so deeply (and bravely) into this unsettling territory, but I'm glad it did. The X-Files: I Want to Believe effectively holds a mirror up to all those who claim belief in Christ's teachings yet actually thrive on hate and draconian notions of punishment and morality. In doing so, it comments explicitly on our times; an epoch when religion is often used to codify hatred of "the other" in our society (and in other societies). This paradigm - this Father Joe Dilemma - is true to everything The X-Files has always been about.

The mystery concerning the severed body parts (and the agent's disappearance) has apparently disappointed some critics and viewers too, but it is also very true to The X-Files' history. The series has always concerned our two world-views (belief vs. skepticism/Mulder vs. Scully) vetting mysterious "horror stories" and in the process giving them new life and energy. Spontaneous combustion, demonic possession, ESP, vampires, werewolves, succubi, golems, out-of-body experiences, and other old concepts in the genre were always re-purposed for the show to incorporate the latest advances in paranormal and medical literature and study. I Want to Believe explicitly continues that tradition with a plot concerning organ transplants, stem cell research, and a cadre of outlaw (Russian...) scientists playing Frankenstein. Is it ridiculous? Well...is a man who turns into a giant green superhero when he's angry also ridiculous? Is a man with a leather fetish wearing a black bat suit ridiculous? You may find the specifics of this X-File on the verge of ludicrous (one critic compared it to They Saved Hitler's Brain), but again, the tradition of taking hoary "monster"/horror chestnuts and granting them new (intelligent...) life is a long-standing facet of Chris Carter's creation. The franchise has been around for fifteen years now; so you likely have already decided whether or not this kind of thing works for you.

There's another aspect of I Want to Believe that works surprisingly well. It too has been ridiculed by reviewers. It's a brief comment said - oddly enough - by Father Joe. He urges Scully not to "give up" at a critical point, yet - as he himself readily admits - he has no reason to have said it to her. "Don't give up" may seem like an easy platitude (gee, like "with great power comes great responsibility?"), but it is actually kind of touching here; a short-hand for much good material. Especially when played between Mulder and Scully. In Duchovny and Anderson's deft hands, "don't give up" is one lover's comment to another in the face of hardship, past hurts and regret. Scully can't give up on the boy whom she is treating now because of the little boy (William) she once gave up on. And balanced against the Mulder/Scully relationship is a man (Callum Keith Rennie) -- a villain -- who steadfastly refuses to "give up" on the life of his lover...and goes to extreme (and really, really radical...) means to see that his lover survives. One plot is played against the other, and I found the balance elegant and touching, not cheesy.

Another theme here is the "burying" or cleansing of the past. The criminals responsible for Bannon's abduction attempt to bury the past (and their crimes) in the ice. Mulder hopes to cleanse his past too (if he just saves this one woman, he will have made up for failing his sister all those years ago). Scully, by saving her patient believes she can be cleansed of her guilt over William. But along comes Father Joe - a man with a past anyone would want to hide - who instead focuses on digging up the past (digging in the ice, in the snow, literally). Things keep coming to the surface. Things that must be dealt with.

The violent scenes in this film are tense, and make surprisingly strong use of a snowplow as a weapon. The bleak locale and the hidden secrets there keeps you alert, looking for clues amidst the ubiquitous falling snow. The location reflects the dark heart of the characters, and the final moment (post-credits) is a splendid (if brief...) catharsis; a release from the blinding white snow of Somerset, WV. More emotionally touching than exciting; more moody and lugubrious than spectacular, more contemplative than action-packed, more dark and foreboding than shocking, this is an uneasy, unsettling X-Files movie in which the truth isn't "out there" but rather "in here" - in us. In the endless mysteries of the human heart and human behavior.

93 comments:

  1. finally! someone who gets it! thank you for this. let's hope people realize what this movie was, and then they can get the big spectacle alien invasion in XF3 in 2012.

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  2. Jake Lockley4:21 PM

    This is the best review of the film yet. I agree, finally someone who gets it and can articulate it better than I can. The resist or serve part was the best. It's always been Chris Carter's show, and he caters to the fans and studio only to the extent that he does not sell out and become commercial or gratuitous just for the sake of it or the money. It would have been easy of him to make a horror film with lots of gore or shock value, but that would be like a master comedian doing fart jokes. There was a line from Harry's review at Ain't it Cool News that I also liked, which was that he liked the movie but he wanted to love it. I feel the same way. X-Files is worthy of that reaction but not at the cost of targeting the lowest common denominator with commercial gimmicks that can be found in any film. X-Files still stands alone in it's own class.

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  3. FINALLY, SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS THIS FILM!!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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  4. Thank you, Jen, Jake and Amanda for commenting on this review.

    I have been reviewing movies for some time now, and I don't think I have ever seen so many critics go after a film in the way they have I WANT TO BELIEVE. The criticisms tend to be not just cruel (and often dumb...) but way off the mark. It makes me think the critics wanted the movie to fail; and that they weren't paying attention to the movie. The reviews for the film tend to strike me as petty.

    Worse, it makes me think that the intelligent film criticism is rapidly becoming a thing of the past...

    -JKM

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  5. Anonymous8:17 PM

    This is a wonderful review of a sorely misunderstood film, and I'm so glad to have read it. Thank you for putting so much thought into the details of this movie. I particularly enjoyed your exploration of the moral quandary surrounding Father Joe's attempt at redemption and your analysis of Scully's guilt regarding William, which augments her determination to save her patient, Christian. While the command "Don't give up" may seem trite, even cheesy, when divorced from context, in this film--and within the context of Mulder and Scully's complex relationship--it is powerful.

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  6. Finally! This is easily the most articulate review of this movie that I've read. Interestingly enough, the fans seem to be "getting it" moreso than the critics. The X-Files has always required thought. I guess after years of watching the show, we have the advantage of experience and understanding.

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  7. Thank you for this review. I cannot agree with you more! This movie was so good. I'm afraid most people went into this movie expecting something akin to the first movie. Instead, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz gave us a story more like "Leonard Betts" or "Chinga." Creepy is good. Creepy is The X-Files! And they gave us an emotional/spiritual journey, as well. But your review said it so much better than I ever could. Again, thanks!

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  8. Thanks for this brilliant review. Finally someone who "gets it". Thanks for doing a misunderstood film justice.

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  9. Anonymous11:04 PM

    I just wanted to say thank you for this thorough review. Deep inside, I also wonder if the critics wanted this beautiful movie to fail...who could really know? Anyway, your words are highly appreciated.

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  10. Thank you, finally someone who finally gets it. This is like a classic X File, that makes you think and wonder. Question what you thought you believe. It doesn't lay things out for you, you have to piece it together and figure out if it's right or wrong on your own.

    It's a wonderful little piece, and so many people seem to be missing out on it because they don't get it or refuse to let go of their expectations and see the movie for what it really is.

    Thank you for seeing it as it is, and understanding the beauty and layers that it holds.

    I hope more people start to see it for the gem it really is.

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  11. I will like to add my voice to the comments above. I loved this movie and left the theater thinking, and now three days later I'm still thinking. I too was taken aback by the viciousness of some of the reviews, they seemed uncalled for and now, after seeing the movie, I can only conclude that the critics just didn't get it. I think this movie requires more "thinking" than your typical summer fare does. Perhaps it may have done better in the fall or winter. In any case, I am thankful they creators had the guts to go their own way.

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  12. Thank you so much for this! There are no other words I could use (you used them all, and you used them beautifully) except thank you!
    Finally!

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  13. John, this really is an amazing review and I'm not saying that simply because I agree with you. It's an eloquent and compelling explanation of a film that a lot of people seem not to be "getting." I really appreciate that you took the time to write something so cogent - you pointed out several things that I hadn't considered before and will help me appreciate the film even more when I see it again. A link to your review was posted at Television Without Pity's XF forum and people have really enjoyed reading it (it's also posted on the blog over at Frank Spotnitz's Big Light Productions). Thanks for your insights!

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  14. Thank you, John, for this wonderful review. It's not a perfect movie, but it is interesting and thought- provoking and certainly not a bad movie as a lot of critics and even some "fans" have labeled it.
    It is pure "X-Files" in the thought behind it and the wonderful movie-making elements. I especially think David and Gillian were wonderfully true to their Mulder and Scully characters. Thank you for understanding it better than 95 percent of the critics.

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  15. Anonymous1:39 AM

    Thank you for the positive and intellectual review. If the film critics actually paid closer attention with their hearts and ears and beyond their visual sight, then perhaps they would have noticed the in-depth, articulate interwoven story of the XF2. The best part of the movie was the lack of use of firearms. Because without the firearms, as audience members, we were made to pay attention, to think and to feel the emotions of all the characters. And in my opinion, that has always made a story a great story to be told as you said in your review "the human heart and human behavior." GREAT JOB!

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  16. Great review Mr. Muir, probably the best I've seen so far. It feels so good to see a critic who actually GETS IT... And you're right, I want to believe doesn't really fit into the summer blockbuster movie mold ( and I'm happy it doesn't) but I wish people weren't so prejudiced and opinionated and give it a chance. It's a SMART movie and at the risk of being hated for saying this, maybe we need more smart people in this country.

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  17. Anonymous2:16 AM

    I was really beginning to wonder if any critic would truly understand this deep, emotional movie. Through your insightful review, you've taught me a lesson -- don't give up! Thank you for taking the time to think about the movie, to see it for what it is instead of what it's not. I'm just so glad someone got it!

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  18. Anonymous2:38 AM

    I never comment on blogs, but felt compelled to come out of lurkdom to concur with the other posters. Yours is the most insightful review of this much-maligned movie that I've seen anywhere. I have been despairing that there is no future for intelligent, thought-provoking movies, certainly as far as the press and the general public are concerned.
    To paraphrase Mulder, I have looked for intelligent life on this planet, which is why I'm looking elsewhere.
    I still want to believe it's out there somewhere.

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  19. alice2:54 AM

    Reading your review of The X-Files: I Want To Believe has made my day. THANK YOU!You have expressed my feelings for the film in ways that I could not. First, I will send this to a friend who left me a phone message that she was not WOWED by IWTB, but found it somewhat entertaining. Second, I am going to print your review and frame it.
    Sadly, I agree , intelligent film criticism overall, is a thing of the past.

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  20. Your review took the words right out of my mouth, and added so much more. Thank you for giving the film the credit it deserves. And thank you for reaffirming my belief that the majority of critics were looking for something that wasn't there -- rather than focusing on what WAS there. I have been a huge fan of the series for many, many years and although this movie was not what I was expecting, I could not have been happier. In my experience, with The X-Files, Chris Carter seems to know what's best for us... and it never involves giving us exactly what we want.

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  21. I just want to say thank you to everyone who posted here and enjoyed the reviews.

    So far as the future of The X-Files -- don't write any obituaries. To coin a phrase -- "don't give up."

    Mulder and Scully still have a lot of truth to show us!
    -JKM

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  22. Wow. I simply cannot thank you enough for writing such a careful, intelligent and thought-provoking review. Finally, someone who didn't jump to conclusions and actually gave the film some thought!

    I have to say, from the moment the credits rolled on "I Want to Believe," I all but predicted how it would be received critically. It requires too much thought, too much time, for the average American moviegoer or critic, and many film critics have had an axe to grind with XF since as far back as 1998. The fact that Carter and Spotnitz even got the thing made (and did so much with such a small budget and short amount of time) is nothing short of a miracle, but that they chose to be brave with the material and make what is clearly a very personal film -- not just for them, but for fans of the franchise -- is even more astounding. If this is indeed the end (and box office results so far don't bode particularly well), what a note for us all to go out on!

    I only wish I could point every naysayer in your direction. Sure, we can't change everyone's minds, but the least we can do is at least attempt to do what Carter and Spotnitz did; to make the audience think.

    I, and many other fans, were fortunate enough to meet Carter, Spotnitz, Duchovny, Anderson, and many of the film's other stars and crew members at the premiere in Los Angeles. It's clear from speaking to any of them that the film was made for the fans, and for themselves. I think it's something they can, and should, be proud of, regardless of what the numbers or critics say.

    Long, unnecessarily rambly comment short, it's heartening to see a critic such as yourself still out there somewhere. I was saddened to see Ebert hanging up his spurs (though pleased to see his insightful review of IWTB posted as his swan song), because that's just one less critic of caliber and care on the roster. Keep on fighting the good fight!

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  23. Thank you so much for this thorough and intelligent review.

    I don't think I blinked the entire time I watched this film for the first time - though I did not see all that you've seen. My excitement over seeing my old friends Mulder and Scully took over and I was just struck by their emotional relationship too much to make the parallels that are so clearly there.

    Having seen the film several times now, however, it is so deeply layered that repeated viewings are necessary, in my opinion, for the average viewer to take in all of the levels of meaning, and questions about morality that Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz present here. I encourage everyone to go see it one more time and put together the pieces in your own mind and see a wealth of meaning behind each frame.

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  24. awolters9:31 AM

    It is wonderful to see that there are critics out there who still recognize the art of film and not just the spectacle. Thank you for you insightful and eloquent review!!

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  25. Hey everyone --

    More than 1,000 views of this review already -- in under twenty four hours. Which just goes to show you...never underestimate The X-Files!

    -JKM

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  26. Anonymous9:53 AM

    This is brilliant. I am so happy, amongst all the negativity, to read a review by someone who understands what the X-Files has always been about. I am forwarding this review to friends and posting it wherever I can so that they can be privy to your insights as well.

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  27. QuaranteDeux10:55 AM

    Thank you SO MUCH for this. It seems almost as if the critics have taken joy in bashing "I Want to Believe" for what it isn't, rather than appreciating it for what it is. You've done a brilliant job here in articulating why this movie is so great for the fans.

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  28. Thank you. I'm at the point where I've seen so much negativity about what I thought was a well-done, thought-provoking film, that I've started avoiding them altogether. I saw this linked elsewhere and decided to give it a look, and I'm glad I did. What a relief to find a reviewer who's willing and able to look beyond flash-bang to the heart of the story. Good on you.

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  29. Anonymous11:33 AM

    I'm very happy to read this. I'm an x-phile and when I first watched it, I couldn't understand why others reacted so negatively towards it. I enjoyed the themes that ran through the movie, and if it's possible, made me apprieciate Mulder and Scully's characters a lot more. I got to view something truly deep from something that I've loved for years.

    I'm actually book marking this page now, because I respect that so much thought went into the review...something that we don't generally see. (thought, intelligence...what is the world coming to?) I only say that because there tends to be a lot of ignorance right now surrounding this film.

    Thank you so much though.

    -melissa.

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  30. Thank you for your review, John. You've captured much of the subtlety and thoughtfulness of the new X-Files movie that most critics have missed.

    In defense of critics, however, you're review has two things in its favor that most of the reviews I’ve read seem to have lacked.

    You’ve brought the contextual background of nine seasons of the X-Files and the X-Files movie with your reading of the film. The history of Samantha Mulder and her abduction is a complex part of Fox Mulder’s character. The same can be said of William in relationship to Scully. The film only briefly summarizes Samantha’s history, and of William only provides a cursory mention that is easily lost on the uninitiated.

    If the film had been billed as an extension of the show’s complex history I could feel more vitriol towards reviewers for being unprepared, but it was not. Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and the rest of the cast and crew have been advertising the film as a stand-alone venture since it was announced.

    You have also reviewed the movie without prejudging it in the context of a summer release amidst so many other much more action-oriented summer films. Considering the way it has been advertised, and when it has been released, it’s no wonder that critics have been a little miffed by the film’s content. I’m sure it caught more than a few of them off-guard. This point is perhaps inexcusable, but it is understandable.

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  31. THANK YOU! I've spent the past several days just being completely pissed off that most reviewers aren't getting it. You completely nailed it. Have an absolutely fantastic week!

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  32. Nicole12:41 PM

    This review made my day! Thank you so much for understanding what this film is about. I am so sick of reading negative reviews by reviewers who aren't smart enough to get it....

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  33. Beautiful review! Thank you for writing this. I'm glad more people out there understand what this movie is really about!

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  34. If it is possible, I love this movie more after reading your comments! Thank you for providing this uplifting review. Those of us who love the X-files understand...

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  35. Thank you for a thoughtful, unbiased review.

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  36. Thank you for your thoughtful, intelligent consideration of this film.
    One thing you mentioned that I thought was really interesting when I first saw the film was the question of forgiveness and redemption--when Scully asks Father Joe what he was praying for, and in asking him if he thinks God hears his prayers she is essentially implying that his sins are unforgiveable. As a Christian I have to believe that God will forgive my sins, so why should he not forgive anyone else's?
    I like that Father Joe kind of threw it back at her, asking if she thought God heard her prayers. It's an interesting question to raise and a deeper version of the question of redemption and forgiveness.
    I thought it was interesting to note that Mulder seems to be the one more willing to believe that God would use such a man.
    I only wish that more reviewers had sat back and actually paid attention to what was really going on in this movie instead of lamenting that there were no aliens...
    Thanks again!
    phantagrae

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  37. Again, to echo everyone else here, thank you. I was so very amazed at the deep meaning and layers that Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz brought to this movie, bringing us back to the heart of why the X-Files was the thoughtful show it was. I'm not just thanking you because I agree with your opinion on the movie, but also because you put so much thought into your review, something other critics often fail to do. I hope both Chris and Frank see this homage to their work.

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  38. Finally someone(aside for philes) gets it. The series was always something more then just mindless entertainment. It was smart. It needed its viewers to think and see different POV, made "easier" by the differing view points of views of Mulder and Scully. And the movie does the same. Sadly audiences are now spoon feed their entertainment. So they aren't required to think anymore. Thank you thank you thank you for seeing what most the fans do. Your review really touched on all that i was feeling in theater and maybe just a little bit more. Thank You!

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  39. It's unfortunate that many movie goers are there for basically mindless entertainment. Many don't want to think. Many want everything spelled out for them or else, they are mainly there for the "cut em up", "blow em up" thrillers. The X Files gave us smart, educated stories that made you think. There were times when I didn't understand things during the series, but I am thankful that the writers didn't "dumb it down". Subjects that are considered taboo to many were touched upon yet the writers/actors opinions weren't shoved down our throats.
    "Don't give up" and "I want to believe" are truly thought/lessons to live by. Thank you for your review. Sheila

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  40. Thank you for your review. I loved it!
    It seems like there are only a few people left who can actually still THINK.
    There is so much more in the movie than you can see just on the screen. I've read so many reviews and 80% were negative. And I agreee with you. Somehow I think they WANTED the movie to be a failure in their reviews just because it isn't like The Dark Night or Hulk. Seems like people don't wanna think anymore when they watch a movie.
    Thanks for doing what a REVIEW also should do: analyze a movie!

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  41. Your review is beyond perfect! Thank you for your eloquent words and wonderful analyzation. You (and many of us fans out there) truly and completely understand this film, and it is such as shame that other "reviews" don't have the mental capacity to comprehend such a deep film (not passing judgment to them, just stating an observation).

    Do you think that this film will be one that gains huge success on DVD and appreciated more and more as time passes, and, ultimately seen as a great success? Any thoughts on this?

    Many thanks from Charleston, SC

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  42. Add mine to the chorus of voicing offering thanks for an insightful and intelligent review -- the only other one I've come across so far that seems to be able to look past the summer release date and the misguided marketing campaign (which painted this as an action/adventure in the vein of "The Dark Knight") is the one at Salon.com, but yours is even better and more comprehensive.

    I've seen this film twice now, and I look forward to purchasing it on DVD and watching it several more times. In the second viewing I caught many, many things that I hadn't noticed the first time around; it's a meticulously made film that leaves audiences (at least those willing to engage with it) with many thought-provoking questions, and it's got layers to the story and the characters that shamefully few movies ever have anymore. It's not an event or a spectacle, but it is absolutely -- and contrary to what many reviewers are saying -- full of everything that made X-Files one of the best shows on television: a terrifically creepy mood, complex questions about the fundamental nature of belief and reality, and a compelling, adult relationship between two fiercely intelligent people. That's the kind of movie I like to see.

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  43. Anonymous3:07 PM

    I'm so glad that there are film critics out there that are ready and willing to give this movie more than a cursory look.

    This is a much smarter, and deeper film than most reviewers are giving it credit for. I see far too many people condemning it for not being a freak-of-the-week film and it's a refreshing to read a review that looks closer at the themes and character interaction that lie at the film's heart.

    Kudos!

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  44. bloody brilliant!!! thank you for this review!

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  45. Seriously wonderful review and probably the best I have read on the film. I wrote on it Saturday at Moon In The Gutter as well and you really captured several things I wanted to in my post...I really appreciated reading this.

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  46. thank you thank you thank you for posting such an insightful eloquent review - of thoughts i had but couldn't put into words - of what i wanted to say. i was thinking that people are going into this expecting the wrong thing and are therefore coming out disappointed... but how could this be, since it's so great? thank you for writing this.

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  47. Wow, you are a great writer Mr. Muir. I look foward to reading more of your movie reviews in the future. I almost could care less about the content, the style is very impressive.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the movie and I hope more people who are undecided will look to your review to help them make up their minds. I thought this was a wonderful film and your review makes it that much better.

    Cory

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  48. John –Thank You! Your keen insight into the film is uplifting to those of us who value good story telling over mega-million dollar special effects. As someone who watched the film makers labor over "I Want To Believe" from start to finish, I was shocked at how easily their work was dismissed… despised. "I Want To Believe" is an intelligent film from start to finish. Each line of dialogue, each composition of frame, is there to make you think - to stir your thoughts - to force you to ask you self questions. If you just want visceral reactions, go see "Wanted." Reviewer after reviewer heralded that film with its cutting edge special effects. What I saw was a story that premised itself on the fact that, “Killing one man, might save a thousand.” Well, in killing that one man, several hundred completely innocent bystanders were killed in collateral damage in order to showcase the remarkable GCI vehicle and train effects. The only question I asked myself during that film was, “How did they do that?” Chris and Frank did push the writing envelope in creating a storyline that actually forces one to think about one’s own beliefs. It’s obvious they were writing for an intelligent audience. No wonder most of the critics didn’t get it.

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  49. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Thank you so much for a review in which you left your biases at the door! I love how open minded you were when watching the movie, more so, I love that you actually got it!
    Marci

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  50. Madambeth4:35 PM

    Ah, a breath of fresh air in a roomful of stinky reviews. I have been SUFFOCATED by the horrible reviews for this movie (the second based off of a t.v. show I have watched since I was ten no less)have made me want to drive to every critic who bashed this film's house and punch them in the throat(to be perfectly honest). But to finally find someone who 'got it' makes my little x-phile heart feel so much better. I am going for my 4th viewing of the film tonight. If it were crap, you wouldn't have probably caught me there more than once. Thanks for the thoughtful, considerate and well researched review. I wish every critic could see the big picture.

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  51. Anonymous5:06 PM

    FINALLY! This was such a great review, a breath of fresh air... thank you thank you! Now if only we could get you in touch with Ebert! :-)

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  52. Anonymous5:27 PM

    Just one big fat THANK YOU!

    I'm glad that someone recognizes the movie for what it is.

    I'm so annoyed by fans' reviews how disappointed they are, that the movie isn't about the things they expected, when it was said from the beginning that the movie wasn't going to be about conspiracy and aliens.

    The movie is scary, just thinking about the awful crimes Father Joe did and the experiments á la Frankenstein. Scully's desire to fight darkness and how she strugles with faith in God is so heartbreaking to watch.

    I love that she seems to be "Spooky Scully" in the hospital. She gets the looks that Mulder got while working for the FBI.
    I love the mention of old characters and the acknowledgment of their child, William.

    Mulder and Scully's relationship is wonderfully portraited and you can see how much they've grown and matured, separately and together.

    I'm very satisfied with the movie and I've already seen it twice and I'm going to see it at least 2 more times.

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  53. Hi, my name is Gláucia, I'm from Brasil, and I'm a psychologist. And I agree with every aspect you wrote about. It is exactly how I understood THE X FILES - I WANT TO BELIEVE.
    This movie, the tv show, they had always been about contradiction, faith, balance... You are right.
    Thanks for writing about it. Thanks a lot.

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  54. Sarah6:17 PM

    This is the best review I've read of this movie so far. You really nailed it!

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  55. many thanks for the informed and insightful review you've crafted here!

    i thought the film was wonderful--reminiscent of the old thrillers, grappling with universal themes of morality, love, faith and redemption.

    it's been 3 days and i'm still thinking about these ideas...so even if it's not embraced by mainstream audiences, it's bound to get dissected in film criticism and/or rhetoric and media classes in the coming years!

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  56. Wow I thought I "got" all of this movie, but you've pointed out something I missed, in myself. I think I need to see this movie again. Thanks.

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  57. A really, really nice review. I'm glad someone linked this on IMDb. I don't agree entirely. I think you overestimate a little the tension between Mulder and Scully. I didn't get the feeling that they were not content. I suspect they sit around, cuddle, discuss Einstein and string theory, and watch X-Files reruns. Mulder just never leave the house, and Scully wants him to. I thought she obviously loved him too much ever to make good on the threat to leave. It seemed like posturing to me, and Mulder's annoyed reply just calls the bluff. But I do think it's become an unchallenged relationship, one with some significant buried issues, as you describe, that nees a challenge to grow in a new direction. And the tension that comes out of that gives the film its juice.

    Anyway, it's a Nick and Nora supernatural adventure as directed by Antonioni and/or Bergman. But with a happy ending. Thanks again. I'm going to link you from my blog.

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  58. And one thing that I like about your review .... I had given up on the whole organ-harvesting plot as a maguffin. You did such a rich job of giving it meaning. Obviously I need to take Father Joe's advice.

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  59. Thank you so much for this. Finally someone else who gets it. You said everything I felt when I saw this movie, but you were able to express it far more eloquently and detailed that I could have. I don't even know what else to say except thank you.

    I Believe
    Liz

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  60. Anonymous8:25 PM

    I didn't see the movie that you did. I disliked it intensely. Was I expecting explosions, a batcave, a superhero? No. I wasn't. I've been a fan since 1993. I hoped for and expected a good story. I did not see that. I saw two middle-aged people, one apparently out of work, living with each other and still going by last names...very modern? Maybe. I saw a strangely disjointed case, (no pun intended)interspersed with the case of a child whose life hung in the balance. Did we at least get some sort of closure with the child? No. What about the murder case..er maybe. We know the priest and at least one of his victims died at the same time. Big whoop de do. No, there was nothing satisfying with this film except the appearance of Mitch Pileggi for the brief time he was there. Oh and Duchovny looked great.

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  61. Anonymous8:57 PM

    Mr. Muir, what a well-written, compelling and beautiful review of The X-Files: IWTB. You've wowed me and everyone I've sent this to. And you've helped me see aspects in this movie that never crossed my mind. Bravo! Truly great stuff.

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  62. kboyd9:28 PM

    Very nicely written and analyzed. I've wanted to punch virtually every critic (except Ebert), as well as a few of my friends, for not grasping this understated film. I believe I'll pass along a link to your review to a few of them and see if they reconsider their stances.

    I honestly wonder if the problem wasn't the release date. In the midst of these huge summer action blockbusters, X-files was bound to fall short. Maybe the fall/Christmas season -- when the more introspective "Oscar" fare come out -- would've been better?

    At any rate, nicely done...and thanks.

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  63. Renee9:41 PM

    It's nice to read the thoughts of a critic who can appreciate a thought provoking movie! I came away from this movie wowed by the depth and layers of meaning that have me still pondering it four days later. Now some of your excellent points have me thinking even more. Thank you, Mr. Muir and The X-Files:IWTB, for engaging my brain in this time when we are bombarded by the mindless dribble Hollywood usually throws at us.

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  64. What a thoughtful review. I echo the sentiments above in regards to finally someone "getting it." Thanks!

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  65. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this fabulous review! None of the other critics get it at all, although a great deal of the fans do. This was fabulous. Can you get it posted everywhere :)

    Laura

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  66. Thank you, thank you, thank you, your review was fabulous and left me with even more to think about. The constant bad reviews were very depressing. It is so nice to see a reviewer that sees the film for what it really is, a movie that provokes lots and lots of thoughts. The discussions I have found myself involved in in the last several days remind me of the old days of the X-Files. I didn't realize how much I missed those after episode talks

    Thank you again
    Laura

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  67. Anonymous11:53 PM

    Someone post this review's link to Duchovny's blog!

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  68. Anonymous1:23 AM

    Mr. Muir, I must add my voice to the chorus of "thank you's" here. Really, this was an amazing analysis of "I Want to Believe" and rich with insight and understanding. Thank you so much for being a "voice in the wilderness" so to speak. As Mulder so eloquently put it in THE TRUTH, "Maybe there's hope."

    I had stopped reading any reviews several days ago because it was just too depressing to see the critics ripping this beautiful movie to shreds. Thankfully, your review was mentioned on The Haven and what a wonderful piece it is. I'm printing it out so I can read it over and over again. Thank you again for this.

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  69. Anonymous2:15 AM

    I have seen the movie, and now understand and appreciate it a lot more after reading your review. Very insightful, just a pity many others did dig a little deeper past face value.

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  70. thank you, sir. most excellent indeed.

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  71. i previously left a comment after reading your review - i found your review on the imdb.com message boards for the xfiles: i want to believe. i then posted the link to your review and the review itself on my website for Michelle Pfeiffer, www.michellepfeiffer.us - to fans who probably don't even know the movie - your review was that phenomenal. and it truly deserves to receive as much attention as it has, because it should be the only review that there is out there, and the only review that should be allowed to be read about this movie!! even an avid Phile like myself, having seen the entire series straight through 3 times, and all of the episodes many times apiece, the 1st movie many times, and a frequenter of the message boards, even i missed some of the points that you mentioned in your thoughtful review. i hope that the other reviewers of this movie have read your review and feel stupid and ashamed of their reviews and perhaps will go PAY and see the movie for a second time. and maybe appreciate it for its simplicity and complexity and beauty and everything that it is and everything that it isn't. no movie should ever be reviewed negatively for what it ISN'T and i'm glad that you pointed this out, and i hope that i have helped to spread the word about your review and in turn about how wonderful this movie is! keep up the good work, and i'm off to check out your other reviews (you suggested HOME, so that is where i will start) and i'm anxious to see if you ever reviewed a favorite show of mine that was axed b/c it was too intellectual for our dummed down society ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip")

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  72. dumb'd down? dumbed-down? ... is this ironic? LOL

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  73. It is a true pleasure to read your review, and I loved the way you described the movie and The X-Files in general. After all, people are getting dumber and it's not their fault, it's the media's fault and the media is indeed the biggest instrument of propaganda...

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  74. Anonymous5:09 PM

    I am speechless (which is unusual as I am a teacher). All I can muster right now is, thank you for your brilliant and intelligent review! The review spoke volumes. You made my day.

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  75. You've put into words more eloquently than I could have, the forgiveness aspect of Scully and Father Joe. Can they forgive themselves, will God forgive Joe?
    Mulder's relentless search for the agent, he doesn't know how to give up.

    This movie wasn't the usual summer fare, it was more cerebral,maybe that's why the fans understand it and not the paid critics.

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  76. I will definitely be coming back to read more! It's been a long time since I've ever read such an intelligent, well-considered review.

    I suppose it's possible that I'm biased as a fan of TXF, but your meditation on redemption and how it is played out in the film is outstanding. Thank you so much.

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  77. Grifyn1:22 AM

    I feel like I need to go watch the movie again and more thoughtfully this time. Thank you for your words. I think my initial displeasure with it was due to walking in and expecting a big bang of a summer film.

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  78. Camille2:40 PM

    I just ran across the link to this comment at XF board at TV.com and I am SO glad I did!

    I've been pretty upset with the critis lately over this movie. As you said, they expected Batman-like special effects and instead they recieved so much more: a daring and groundbreaking story that still manages to continue the original themes and moral contrasts of the series.

    I think you even pointed things out about the movie that I didn't even catch when I watched it. (I've been debating whether or not a I should see it again - I'm tight on money right now otherwise there would be no debate - but after reading your BRILLIANT review, I think I may suck up the expense and go see it again so I can examine the things I didn't catch the first time.)

    Thank you so much for this fantastic review! You're the first person I've come across (besides us regular fans) who truly understands what a rare diamond this movie is.

    THANK YOU!

    ~Camille~

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  79. Diego9:58 PM

    Well, this renewed my faith in this movie. It hasn't come out yet in Argentina, so it's going to be a hard two-weeks wait.
    It really seems you put a lot of thought into this review, unlike most critics, who seemed more interested in making "witty" jokes about "believing" and other recurrent phrases than actually analyzing the movie.

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  80. spooky mulder .9:49 PM

    X files i want to believe. i loved the movie , loved this review

    thank you very much

    nuff said

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  81. Reading such a brilliant review makes me feel less depressed about all the bad reviews around.
    Thank you so much for writing this and for understanding this wonderful movie.....

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  82. This is by far the best review of the film that I've read. So many critics (following the success of Dark Knight, Hancock, etc.) seem unable to look past the lack of explosions and action to see the film for what it really is: a masterpiece of writing, acting and production that really has made the fans proud to be a part of this series, and believe in what The X Files has. Thanks for this.

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  83. Hayley aka 10145:03 PM

    Great review. Saw the film - moody, suspenseful, and got the old noggen ticking. I'm hoping this film will have a snowball effect and will start to pickup. It surely deserves it. Thank you Mr Muir for a cracking review!

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  84. Edison Carter8:04 PM

    The first time I went to see this film, I walked out with about fifteen minutes to go. Then, a friend just had to see it and I tried it again. I really think, that for the overage viewer, it's all just too much in one sitting to take in and the response to that difficulty is to be angry with it. I did better during the second viewing.

    The movie is true to its origins. Whether it's the scientists gone too far, 'visions' being the result of a psychic connection as opposed to the divine, the dynamics of faith, etc. Yet, when taken from another view, it's the most bizarre take on a sex change operation you could imagine. For that alone, I don't blame the detractors for their opinions.

    It's worth going to to and I can honestly say that I'm glad I went back.

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  85. I think everyone here said what I want to say, but better. This review is incredible and says exactly what I feel. I actually just sent this review to someone who didn't like the film because I feel this will help them see it through different eyes. It probably won't change their mind, and that's fine, I just wanted them to see what I found so important. Thank you for writing this.

    btw, Mulder and Scully are the two best looking people on earth! Just thought I should add that! :)

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  86. You've probably gotten tonnes of comments from fans since you review the film, but since the film was just released in the UK last Friday, I feel like I should add my thanks to the articulate and insightful way you've reviewed the film. And wow, that was a long sentence! :-) I've spread this as much as I can, because I feel it's a review every fan should be reading rather than the majority of the ones out there, who just honestly reveal how superficial their view (and expectations) of film actually is.

    So, thank you, for presenting a differing opinion!

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  87. What a nice sorprise. I'm from Chile and all I have to say is thank you for understand so good the film. I'm feeling the same way of you. I want to believe isn't a typical summer movie, is that just too hard to realize?

    "I saw two middle-aged people, one apparently out of work, living with each other and still going by last names...very modern? Maybe"
    ->That's only what you saw, dude? So you aren't a real x files fan. I want to believe WAS about Mulder & Scully and their beliefs. If you didn't see this... man, you are blind.

    Anyways, thanks for sharing this!. You could send this post to the Frank Spotnitz blog.

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  88. Mr. Muir: I just found your lovely review today. What a breath of fresh air! I've been avoiding a lot of reviews, simply because I knew the hate would be out there, and for no good reason other than its easy to do. What a cop-out for all those poor, misguided souls!

    You brought out a lot of good points. The movie isn't perfect, but its definitely not a bomb, either. You do have to see it more than once to catch all the little nuances.

    Once again, thank you for your insights. Yours and Roger Ebert's are the best out here. I just wish I could still see it in a theater (I saw it 3 times). It's a shame it got pulled after a few weeks. Not cool.

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  89. mommyca1:04 PM

    i just saw the movie on DVD this weekend and i loved it, and today i was very happy to find your review (amid several horrible reviews i read). it definitely captured the essence of the movie and i was happy to see that many other x-file fans have enjoyed the movie also.

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  90. Oh good, so there are words to express what I felt after watching this film. I was just having a hard time finding them. Thanks! :)

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  91. Lesley C7:13 PM

    I am coming very late to your wonderful review. I have not seen the movie yet as I am currently watching the x-files on the sci-ci network....I did not watch the show in the 90's. I LOVE this powerful story which continues on in the film from last summer. I heard Chris Carter in an interview say that he has always thought of the X-Files as a search for God. If you listen to him and to Frank Spotnitz who talks about the "great unrequited love story" any thinking person will understand on a deep level what these filmmakers are trying to say.
    Thank you for a brilliant articulation--not only of this film--but of the depth and breadth of the message (with all of it's questions) within each and every X-Files episode and film. I would also like to say that whether they like it or not David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have created much loved, indelible characters. The chemistry between the two is amazing on many levels. I am a fairly jaded older TV and Movie viewer...not much gets past me anymore and not much surprises me...but the creators, writers and actors involved in the X-Files have captured my attention and devotion as a fan.

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  92. Brilliant. Just brilliant! It is so refreshing to see others who enjoyed and understood this film!
    I was sure that my husband and I were the only ones who loved seeing this in the theatre (and then on DVD). ;-)
    Thank you very much for posting this!

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  93. Anonymous6:01 PM

    I was beginning to believe that I was the only one who truly appreciated and saw the depth and beauty of this movie. Well written, and thank you.

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