Directed by Sidney Lumet. Written by Jay Presson Allen. Story by Ira Levin
Box office: $19,282,134 IMDB: 7/10 Rotten Tomatoes: 71% Metacritic: 54%
My fiance Rachel and I have an ongoing tradition where anytime we have some free time, we will sit down and watch a murder mystery/whodunit movie. That tradition continued the other night, and as I was scrolling through my phone on the hunt for a juicy mystery, Deathtrap caught my eye. Starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, the cast alone was enough to make this worth checking out.
Deathtrap follows once-successful playwright Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine) after his latest Broadway effort bombs on its opening night, leading him to tumble into despair -- until he receives a package from his former student Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve). Inside is an unproduced script that's better than anything Sidney has written in years. At the urging of his wife, Myra (Dyan Cannon), Sidney undertakes a plan to lure Clifford to his country home, murder him and then announce the script as his own work.
The movie basically shows like a play. It takes advantage of very wide shots and extremely long takes, giving this sense of a theater performance. That said, at no point does this really become distracting or boring. Right away, I'll say that this doesn't play like your typical whodunit movie. You're not dealing with a very large cast at all, so there's truly not many people to suspect. It seems like a cut and dry murder that you're just watching play out; however, the film takes a twist about halfway through.
We end up seeing a lot more than just a simple murder, which has you questioning every action each character takes for the rest of the film. As a result, we are left as a very uncomfortable audience, feeling the tension created by an element of suspense. Deathtrap is very different than any murder mystery I've seen before, and it manages to take stabs at a genre that has been overdone all too many times before. In this manner, it's very similar to SCREAM (1996), which pokes fun and 'parodies' the slasher genre. In a way, Deathtrap is doing the same thing, but bringing a twist to the murder mystery genre.
As for the cast, seeing Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve manage such a unique tension was extremely fascinating for me. Christopher Reeve, the man I've always know as Clark Kent (Superman), actually has moments of being genuinely creepy. To see such a handsome, 'pretty' man like him be so creepy... It was like Christian Bale in American Psycho (2000).
All in all, it was a fun ride that definitely delivers a handful of twists. I can't say that the movie left me stunned and shocked at the outcome, but it definitely had me expecting a different ending. Rachel thought the same as well. She tends to struggle to watch older films (I know, 1982 is old?). As a result, when the film first started, she didn't seem too into the film for the first third of it. When the film picked up pace however, she bought in and really enjoyed it. I'd say if you're looking for a fun, little murder mystery on a rainy night, give Deathtrap a watch. It doesn't disappoint.