K-Pax



Many may see K-Pax as a science fiction. I considered this but chose to go with fantasy instead. As a Sci-Fi the film is reasonably good. As a fantasy it is exceptional.






In order to properly review a film the first job is to figure out which genre applies. This was a bit of a task with K-PAX. Many may see it as a science fiction. I considered this but chose to go with fantasy instead. As a Sci-Fi K-Pax is reasonably good. As a fantasy it is exceptional.

K-Pax is a film that belongs in the pantheon of 21st century fairy tales. Considering the stress in the world today we need films like K-Pax. The story begins with the appearance in a bus depot of a man that goes to the assistance of an old woman that was just mugged. When the police arrive on the scene they ask the man where he came from and he answers another planet. Of course, he winds up in a mental institution where Prot (Kevin Spacey) meets his new psychiatrist Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges). At first the diagnosis seems clear, any man that claims he came from a binary star in the constellation Lyre some 1,000 light years away must be insane. Still, there is something about Prot that causes an uneasy feeling in Powell and many others. There is something about Prot that oddly rings true. Powell starts to look into the claim, partially to show Prot his delusion and partially to believe for himself that Prot is human. Powell goes to his brother in law, an astrophysics professor, for a list of questions that would find a hole in Prot’s claim. Instead of revealing Prot as a fake the answers provided amaze Powell’s in law and his fellow stargazers. In a scene that reminded me of the questioning of Jesus before the elders of the temple the astronomers meet with Prot at the Rose planetarium. There they show him images of the stars he calls home, taken by the Hubble telescope. They ask him to draw the orit of his planet. Not only does Prot draw the orbit he provides calculation that when feed into a computer trace the same complex path. More than that, the planet explains the variations found in this newly discovered system. The real heart of the story is not in the obvisous ‘he is real or not’ line. It is in the affect that Prot has on not only his fellow inmates but on Dr. Powell. Powell is a workaholic; he is growing distant from his second wife (Mary McCormack) and their children. Powell is even completely such out of the life of his son by his first wife. Prot is a catalyst that remains unaffected while he helps those around him gain a more emotionally healthy grasp on life. K-Pax is a true fairy tale, a modern day morality play set in pure imagination.

While the supporting cast in K-Pax is wonderful the focus is on the interaction between Powell and Prot. For such parts I cannot consider better choices than Spacey and Bridges. Spacey is the kind of an actor that does more with a slight facial expression or gesture than most can do with the best script. His rendition of Prot is brilliant. There is a slightly different way Spacey carries himself while in this character. Nothing overt, just something in the way his arms and legs move. It comes across as not usual. He shows amazement at the most mundane aspects of our live on this planet. In the many scenes between Prot and Powell Spacey demonstrates a gentleness that makes the audience believe. Bridges is the perfect counterpoint to Spacey. He plays Powell as an intelligent man desperate to believe in Prot. His second marriage is in danger of failing, he is estranged from his eldest son and all that holds him together is the façade he clings to. Bridges is another actor that relies on the physical aspects of the performance. When these two actors share the screen there is something that will touch you. Special mention should be given to McCormack as the second wife. There is a scene where she happens upon Prot while he is visiting her house. Here is a woman that has held her emotion stress in who finds she can open up to Prot because he is, as he puts it, ‘an institutionalized lunatic’. Its scenes like this that moves K-PAX from a mediocre Sci-Fi to a nice little fantasy.

Iain Softley directed this modern fairy tale. His previous directing credits are a little light but very notable including Hackers and Wings of a Dove. Here he presents the story in such a way that there is a plausible uncertainty to the true identity of Prot. Even at the end when the audience thinks they know the truth there is a nagging doubt that will keep a smile on your face. Like Powell, the audience is lead by Softley to want to believe. In this time of violence and misery it is refreshing to see a film that transports you from brutal reality to a place normally held for children, imagination coupled with belief. Softley paces K-Pax very well. It flows in a way so as to keep your attention focused on the performance. The framing of the scenes is an excellent example of why a film should be seen in the original aspect ration. Softley paid a lot of attention to the positioning of the two lead characters initially setting them on opposite ends of the screen and gradually moving them together as a bond of trust forms between them. Lighting is also important to the script and it is done with an artist’s eye for detail.

The K-Pax DVD is extremely well done. The audio is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS; the video is crisp anamorphic 2.35:1. The extras include the alternate ending (which I liked better than the one in the theaters), deleted scenes and a fine commentary by the director. Add to this the usual making of featurette; behind the scenes footage and cast interviews and you have a good choice for any collection. Just remember to think fantasy not science fiction while you are watching K-Pax. Let it bring you back to a time when you needed to believe.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com



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