Warner Bros. Pictures | Release Date: November 6, 2002
5.7
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Mixed or average reviews based on 23 Ratings
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5
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8
SpangleDec 15, 2016
I think I liked it? Easily described as love it or hate it, I did both during my viewing of Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale. I loved it in the beginning, lost it in the middle, came back around towards the end, lost it again, but then the finalI think I liked it? Easily described as love it or hate it, I did both during my viewing of Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale. I loved it in the beginning, lost it in the middle, came back around towards the end, lost it again, but then the final sequence convinced me I did enjoy the film. Now, these moments are not attributable to general flaws in the film. Definitely imperfect and highly flawed, Femme Fatale is simply just a cold and unwelcoming film. It slinks along and is both slow and precise, which makes it a hard film to fully appreciate in a single viewing. Yet, what is not hard to appreciate is a great De Palma mystery thriller with solid performances that keeps you guessing until the very end.

The greatest flaw in Femme Fatale is also the biggest spoiler, but it comes towards the end and definitely changes the perspective of the film. Here, much of the film seems to come together initially, but then back pedals and turns on its heels. As I always this kind of twist, the same applies here to Femme Fatale, which is unfortunate in an otherwise low-key and mysterious film that it would rely upon such a silly moment. Fortunately, it does turn around and return to being this mysterious film. With small details, terrific direction of the actors in terms of placing them in the frame and on the set, the final sequence is the highlight of the film. Bar none. Featuring De Palma's flair with big set pieces, this one has a lot of moving parts that come together poetically and make this third act come off with cinematic brilliance.

Not really featuring many notable tracking shots (obviously they are there, but none that really caught my eye as many of De Palma's tracking shots do), the film does feature a lot of split-screen. The other really notable tenant of any De Palma film, the split-screen is used heavily in this film and to exquisite effect. The split between Nicolas Bardo (Antonio Banderas) and our femme fatale Laure (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) as Bardo takes pictures of her while on his balcony is incredible. De Palma uses this twice to show Bardo on his balcony during the second act and then again towards the beginning of the third. Both are pure brilliance and just look phenomenal on the screen.

As for the plot, it is honestly convoluted and a lot of it seems incredibly fortunate/convenient (particularly events surrounding the "seven years later" element), but the film is not set in the real world by any means. In a way, it is sort of fantastical, highlighted by the stilted and awkward dialogue and performances. Banderas and Romijn-Stamos hardly act human in this film. They seem almost robotic or alien. This could be attributed to bad acting, but it does feel entirely purposeful when considered in the context of the final twist that I may not have liked, but does make sense. There is a reason why this film unrealistic and almost dream-like throughout and the acting contributes to this feeling. Yet, the mystery element here is in large due to Romijn-Stamos' performance. Inherently mysterious, her character leaves Bardo and the audience completely in the dark throughout. De Palma does not offer a helping hand and forces his audience to put it together themselves as to what is occurring. By the end, things begin to come together, extraneous moments are enveloped in the rest of the plot, and the film begins to make sense. However, you must be willing to put it together because it is quite convoluted and, as I said, De Palma offers no assistance.

Thrilling, mysterious, and entirely unique, Femme Fatale is an engaging, hard to crack, and completely compelling work by Brian De Palma. As with much of his work, it is incredibly divisive, yet has been praised by certain critics (Ebert) and for good reason. De Palma knows how to make a movie and how to keep an audience on the edge of their seat throughout. Though cold and convoluted, Femme Fatale is a worthy film, but only if you are willing to provide the warmth and attention it needs to make sense.
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8
SeriosityDec 29, 2012
All style, no substance, but it's very cool and superbly shot. You can say the whole is less than the some of its parts, but nearly every scene by itself is amazing.
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