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Sunday, 27 July 2008

The X-Files: I Want To Believe

The X-Files seems like an odd franchise to revive: after nine seasons and a fairly muddled movie, audiences were (for the most part) glad to see the now diminished show vanish, especially as most of its key elements (the unresolved sexual tension between the leads, the intricate conspiracy plotting) had happily been taken up by other shows that could put them to better use. But it doesn't take long to realise that this movie isn't so much leading on from the series as taking it back to its roots. For the first few years the show was basically a low budget, small scale mix of The Silence of the Lambs and JFK (there's not so much of the JFK this time around) with a slice of Twin Peaks (the weird Northwestern atmosphere mostly) thrown in, and this movie - written and directed by series creator Chris Carter - follow the formula to a tee. For those expecting aliens and UFOs and vast government conspiracies, prepare for a let-down: Scully (Gillian Anderson) is now a doctor at a Catholic Hospital , Mulder (David Duchovny) is still a conspiracy nut but now with a beard, and out in the wilderness a psychic ex-priest (Billy Connelly) is leading the FBI to body parts buried in the snow. Trouble is, the FBI is after a missing agent they think is still alive, and so they contact Scully to get her to contact Fox about helping them focus the psychic on the task at hand. What follows is more low-key unsettling rather than scream-inducing, ticking all the boxes from the series heyday (Scully's religion plays a big part) and serving more as a reminder of what was so good about the series than an attempt to take it anywhere new. It's not afraid to get a bit unpleasant in parts (there's a lingering theme of child abuse and redemption that might irk some), but there's also a nice run of comedy from Fox early on that keeps things grounded. Clearly made for almost no money, this feels like an attempt to turn the franchise into a semi-regular series; based on this first outing, it deserves to succeed.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #433)