Dreamcatcher is based on the Stephen King novel that has the distinction of being the first book that he wrote after the near-fatal accident in 1999 where he was struck by a driver whilst out for a walk. This probably explains the pivotal car accidents that frequent the story.
The film starts with a brief introduction to four friends who share a psychic connection with one another – a connection that they have had since childhood. The friends are a college professor, Jonesy (Damien Lewis); a psychiatrist, Henry (Thomas Jane); slacker Beaver (Jason Lee) and salesman Pete (Timothy Olyphant). They embark on their annual trip to a cabin in Maine for a weekend of laughs and to share their childhood memories together. It becomes evident in a series of flashbacks that their gifts can be attributed to a childhood incident where they befriended a handicapped child, nicknamed Duddits, whilst saving him from bullies.
While on their weekend trip Jonsey and Beaver stumble across a hunter, bloated and dazed, stumbling through the forest. After taking him back to the cabin things take a turn for the worse when the cause of the farting, burping and other gastric noises produced by the hunter makes itself known by bursting violently from the anus of the hunter.
Before the friends realise what exactly is going on they are discovered by Colonel Abraham Kurtz (Morgan Freeman – sporting the biggest eyebrows known to man) who quarantines the whole area.
Kurtz and his second-in-command, Captain Owen Underhill (Tom Sizemore) are part of a special ops team known as Blue Boy who specialise in extraterrestrial activities. Kurtz, after years of battling the alien race who have crash landed in Maine, is suffering from the tolls of battle and has lost the plot to a certain degree – much to the worry of Underhill, who he is grooming to take his place in command eventually.
Kurtz and his Apache gunships wipe out all the aliens at a crash site, but one has gotten through their quarantine zone. This alien, known as Mr Gray, takes over Jonsey and it is up to the remaining friends to try and save Jonsey and themselves from the enemy – be it alien or human. It soon becomes evident that they friends cannot save Jonsey by themselves and that they need someone who they haven’t seen for years; Duddits (Donnie Wahlberg).
Like many of Stephen King’s novels, Dreamcatcher starts off promising but the ending is just too weak in comparison. The first part of the film is very compelling with subtle shades of The Shining, The Dead Zone and stronger shades of Stand By Me. The characters are fully fleshed out and have personality, but by the end the film is just another alien film – lost is the whole characterisations and skill that made the first half. It’s almost like two different films joined in the middle.
Dreamcatcher is saved from becoming just another alien invasion movie by the performances – bar one (and a surprising one at that). The four friends are superb, with Jason Lee and Timothy Olyphant stealing their scenes. The real stand out is Damian Lewis – especially when he becomes part Mr Gray and Jonsey. It’s nice to see that a British actor cast in a Hollywood role that requires a British accent – no Ocean’s Eleven type Don Cheadle cockney shenanigans here.
The surprising let down in the acting stakes is Morgan Freeman. Never has he sleepwalked through a role like this before – it’s almost as if he’s just done this film to move away from the normally moralistic, upright characters that he does so well. It feels like bad casting and speaking of bad casting, Tom Sizemore, is completely wasted in his underwritten role of Freeman’s Number Two guy.
On the whole, Dreamcatcher starts off promisingly enough but loses its momentum about half way through. Some parts are handled well such as Jonsey’s memory warehouse and the great snowy cinematography. With the weak ending, it feels that a film about just the four friends might have lasted the duration better.
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