Sometimes the best fictionalized stories begin and end with the roots of fact. On October 3, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious and, “in great distress, and…in need of immediate assistance”, according to the man who found him. Little is known about how he came to be in his poor condition and the meaning behind the words that he was speaking at the time. And so the mystery behind the condition before his death is both the beginning and the end of James McTeigue’s The Raven.
The film begins when a mother and daughter are found murdered in Baltimore. Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) discovers that the crime resembles a fictional murder described in gory detail as part of a collection of stories written by Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack). He questions Poe as a suspect and while he is questioning him, another murder occurs, also inspired by another of Poe’s stories.
Fields enlists the help of Poe to help him stop the murders. When Poe’s bride to be Alice Eve (Emily Hamilton) is kidnapped by the murderer, Poe must use his skills of deduction to solve this case before he loses her forever.
The story resembles a lot like a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Poe takes on the role of Holmes and in an effort to save Alice he must face his adversary, the unknown murderer who is masterminding this gory game.
I felt that John Cusack did a very good job in his role as the drunk, socially dysfunctional Edgar Allan Poe. Cusack does a good job playing Poe as a man who cares about his bride to be, good at his deduction of a crime scene, and determined to do whatever it takes to find her. The high point of the performance for me was when he reads The Raven to a group of women. I felt as though he had truly put himself into the role he was playing.
Luke Evans does a good job as Fields as well. He’s determined and extremely stubborn. He’s also as intelligent as Poe, just in other ways. It’s his deductions at the initial crime scene that first identifies the suspect.
James McTeigue, best known for V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin tackles his first serious film here. He’s effective in nearly every scene and keeps the story moving at a consistent pace. There’s some action, but just enough where it counts. He lets the story be the star of the show and that’s a wise move here.
Stories of fiction (keep in mind that this is a work of fiction) that weave themselves into actual facts are always a guilty pleasure of mine. This one starts with fact, and through a work of fiction eventually comes full circle back to the place it began. It’s a fun ride and in the vein of a good Sherlock Holmes story. If you’re in the mood for a good twist, then this is the movie for you.
FINAL GRADE: B +
Reel Film News Movie Review by Bill Ayres