I've heard and read that most critics think this film is basically like watching an extended episode of the FOX-TV series from which this movie is based. Yet, critics spout this as if it's a negative. Trust me, if that's the worst you can say about this film, then it's still a winner. Each episode of the TV series was produced like a short film and each episode was a thousand times better than half the horror films and thrillers that have come out in the past decade.
Granted, I'm biased. I was a huge fan of the TV series, and this film, if nothing else, is a mere treat for eager fans who have been waiting for a continuation of the X-Files stories and the X-Files style.
Even though this film does pick up where the TV series ended in 2002, you don't really need to have watched any of the series to understand this film. Having watched the entire series, I can tell you, it makes the experience more satisfying in certain areas and more familiar.
There will be references and certain nuances that will go over the heads of those who know nothing about the series, but it's not enough to bar anyone from enjoying the chills and thrills of this great movie.
Just to provide some helpful background, I will say The X-Files involves two people, a man and woman who investigate crimes, usually murders. The man is named Fox Mulder and he's a former FBI profiler and the woman, a redhead named Dana Scully, is a medical doctor.
For nine years, the two of them worked for a special unit of the FBI called the X-Files. The X-Files were unsolved cases that typically involved some aspect or element of paranormal or supernatural phenomenon. Over the years, Mulder and Scully have investigated everything from UFOs to vampires to ghost hauntings.
The X-Files were an obsession for Mulder. He believed in all of the paranormal and supernatural things. His intent was to try to bring validity to these things and prove them to be real. For Scully, she's more scientific and down-to-earth. She loves Mulder, but she doesn't believe in all the paranormal stuff. Her role is more the skeptic.
Yet, one issue with which she's always struggled is her faith. Scully isn't an overly religious person, but she does wear a cross. She does have faith and a belief in God, but she's a staunch scientist who likes to be logical and work within strict reason. How does she reconcile the two? In this film, we in fact learn that she now works for a Catholic hospital. God and medical treatment have occasionally bumped heads and they do so again here.
At the hospital, Scully has a patient, a young boy who is suffering from a rare and incurable brain disease. The hospital's administration wants to pass the boy to another facility where the boy will go to die, but Scully doesn't want to give up. She wants to try an experimental treatment, but the treatment would mean putting the boy through torture that might not yield results. Some argue she should just let go and let God, but she struggles.
Meantime, Mulder is approached about helping with the investigation of a missing FBI agent who was kidnapped from her home in West Virginia. Any fan of the show knows that Mulder is an expert when it comes to missing person's cases, his sister being the prime example. Yet, it's Mulder's expertise with the X-Files that comes in handy when it's revealed that a lead in the case was discovered by a former Catholic priest who now claims to be a psychic and receives messages from God.
Agent Whitney, the woman leading the investigation, tells Mulder she's read up on the X-Files cases and knows that he's dealt with cases like this. Fans of the show will get references to Luther Lee Bogs from Season One and Clyde Bruckman from Season Three.
From that point, we settle into a typical X-Files formula mystery that's spooky, intelligent, dark, and compelling from moment to moment. Chris Carter, who created the series, writes and directs this feature that should be required studying in film schools for anyone wanting to do superb suspenseful and intriguing storytelling.
Carter's writing is what's especially exceptional. He and his producing partner, Frank Spotnitz, craft a very smart and clever, criminal investigation, a police procedural of the best kind, that's perfectly layered, and that unpeels with great timing.
Some interesting parallels that fans may see, harking back to the first X-Files move in 1998. First off, like with the previous film, this movie begins and ends in the snow and ice.
The acting is above board, especially from Emmy-winner Gillian Anderson who nails the conflicted character, juggling the moral dilemma that her character experiences. David Duchovny returns to form nicely as the stubborn and wisecracking tracker. The Mulderisms, if you're a fan, are still there and are humorous and as welcoming as they always were.
Five Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for disturbing content and thematic material
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.