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Fractured (2019) Review

Fractured was directed by Brad Anderson (Beirut, Session 9), written by Alan B. McElroy (Star Trek: Discovery, The Marine) and stars Sam Worthington (Texas Killing Fields, Wrath of the Titans), Lily Rabe (American Horror Story, Pawn Sacrifice), Lucy Capri (Hillbilly Elegy, Morphle), Adjoa Andoh (Bridgerton, Cash Cow) and Stephen Tobolowsky (Loners, Strange Nature). It’s about a father whose daughter is injured stopping at a hospital, realizing that the people around him refuse to acknowledge his family’s existence.

The Plot: McElroy has clearly seen Flightplan and decided to use the bones of that movie in something better, while offering a far better and sensical setting for said story. Having characters disappear only for those who’ve definitely seen them hasn’t been perfected in this instance, but fractured inches towards greatness.

On their drive home from Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws’ house, Ray (Worthington) and his wife Joanne (Rabe) have to stop at a gas station so their daughter Peri (Capri) can use the restroom. It’s at that rest stop, or more accurately, the small construction site next to it, that plays a part in Lucy’s arm being fractured. This setup is mostly well done, even if the cause of Peri’s fracture seems a little out there. Ray and his family travel to the closest hospital and are greeted with indifference by most of the staff. Anderson and McElroy are sure to show how gruelling the process of insurance verification and even being checked in is, offering commentary on the system.

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Dr. Berthram (Tobolowsky) gets to Lucy and wants to double-check for a head injury; the couple obliges, but only one of them can go with Lucy. The way that Anderson presents Ray’s entrance of the hospital, along with the medical speak, is organic and never comes across as overtly ominous, more unpleasant but necessary. It’s once the women of the family go for the CAT scan that things get puzzling.

Ray wakes up from a nap to find that the shifts have changed, with no one from the morning left. No one will acknowledge Peri or Joanne, which causes Ray to investigate on his own, to the chagrin of Dr. Jacobs (Andoh) and the police. Ray’s noticed the signs and jumps down the rabbit hole of the hospital, with the staff and police unsure of how to approach him.

It’s not a new idea, but the story here is well-executed, justifying its actions while never overplaying its hand. Until the end, that is. It’s more like two endings that weren’t picked between, but both twists make sense in context and make for compelling viewing.

The Characters: Dynamics between the family members are given out in the first couple of minutes of Fractured, creating a realistic group at the movie’s center, but the script struggles with a side character or two.

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Ray is a very good protagonist that has a legitimate fatherly presence about him, not some saturated cliché, but not underdeveloped or unsympathetic. He’s had some rough patches, including a first wife, a shuttered independent business, and a mostly kicked alcohol addiction. There’re hints to those things all being linked but Anderson is wise to let the audience theorize themselves. His relationship with Joanne is strained due to his focus on work, but this near-tragedy has resuscitated his fatherly instincts, daring to suggest that this series of events may be a good thing in a twisted way. Regardless, he’s not happy about it now and will do anything to get Lucy and Joanne back, which is perfectly illustrated.

Joanne and Lucy make for good plot points but only decent characters. Joanne has been having issues with Ray, wishing he would fight for things the way he used to. What this means for the couple’s past is unfortunately never touched on, but she does encourage Ray to be proactive in this situation, which provides a general idea of what life was like before. Lucy has a disconnect with her father too, trying to stick with him as he uses songs she used to like to bond with her, but she too encourages and reaffirms Ray in a believable way. Neither of them is particularly deep, but the actors share a believable chemistry.

The hospital staff and the cops are hard to pin down, in a good way, since McElroy makes each of them believably defensive whenever they have an argument with Ray but gives them odd enough dialogue that would make a lot of people turn their heads, especially one whose family has potentially been abducted. While none of them play a huge role in the story as individuals, as elements of a possibly corrupt institution, they border greatness.

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The Thrills: “Hitchcockian” is a term that gets thrown around fairly often, but it actually applies to Fractured, as McElroy’s script and Anderson’s direction obfuscate the truth and provide eeriness with ease in a limited setting.

Fractured becomes a psychological thriller once the family makes their way to the hospital that Anderson begins to truly enter Ray’s perspective, using the audio track to focus on specific questions given during his arrival and details about the area, while also using it to dampen emphasis on remarks said in passing. This unconventional tact is used to great effect throughout the movie and makes Fractured different from the pack. Alongside the audio, the sights in and around the hospital are unnerving in context. Seeing lots of biohazardous waste isn’t uncommon in these places, but the quantity raises eyebrows, as does seeing nurses sign papers for unconscious patients from a distance.

More traditional thrills aren’t neglected, though, and Fractured does these in equal measures of quality. Anderson starts strong with a more physical thriller set piece that sets the story in motion. Lucy’s fall does more than most by showcasing Ray’s slipping paternal instincts while still providing a clenching sequence. One creative highlight is a scene in which Ray is locked in a small room and sedated, which makes sense given his behaviour, but it’s how he gets out that’s surprising; working against the shot he was given with a shot of a different kind. Chases and scuffles take place which emboldens Ray and set the other characters on further edge, it’s good stuff.

Fractured goes to a unique place to explain what the hospital may or may not be doing in its climax. The idea is briefly mentioned in the first act and leaned towards in one of the film’s best moments, where Ray watches his family get into an elevator to go to the CAT scanner, but the elevator’s destination isn’t where it should be. Fractured uses a niche but not an unheard-of concept that hits exactly the way it should. McElroy just goes too far in the last five minutes.

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The Technics: Fractured strongly resembles a Hitchcock movie made in the 21st century. That is to say that Anderson has a strong handle on the material and creates a borderline great movie from a mechanical standpoint.

Washing out the colours and setting the events in a cold, rural setting does a lot for the mood by creating a sense of place. It’s one of matter of fact-ness, clinically grey and sterile, which makes the profound desperation that Ray feels stick out even more. Aiding this is a neo-classical score by Anton Sanko (Rabbit Hole, Bloodsucking Bastards) that harkens to the movie’s influences while being recognizable on its own.

What partially sinks the movie is Anderson’s reluctance to trust the audience. This movie requires at least most of one’s attention to absorb all of the details, but rather than letting the movie run straightforwardly, there are some flashes of events that happened less than 30 minutes back, which aren’t necessary.

Fractured runs with a familiar premise and delivers some great thrills using a rare concept. McElroy’s script is smart, and Worthington is great, but some clichés are utilized and Anderson doesn’t completely trust his audience. Still, this is one solid thriller.

Fractured is available on Netflix. And if you’re looking for more of the same, FilmTagger has some suggestions.

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