When you’ve seen as many movies as I have, you can often judge a movie based on how well it surprises you. Often I can guess where a film is going, what any twist is going to be and even, in extreme cases, actual dialogue. That is why movies that manage to trick me or take me down a route I wasn’t expecting are always the ones that stick in my mind and stay with me.
Before I Go To Sleep manages this very well but in such a way that it infuriates you. The rest of the movie isn’t particularly new or groundbreaking, falling into the typical thriller troupes that many will have seen before, so when it does manage to pull the rug from out under you, you feel slightly cheated because the rest of the film doesn’t justify it.
The generic nature of the movie doesn’t translate to a negative aspect though. The story itself comes from a very original place, with Nicole Kidman’s character waking up everyday thinking it is twenty years ago. Her character, Christine, can’t create new memories, which means that she wakes up to her husband, who she doesn’t recognise, and has to have her life explained to her everyday.
It’s a great concept and has more than a little in common with Groundhog Day or 50 First Dates, but where they were played for comedy, this is played for psychological thrills, with Kidman’s character not sure whether she can trust what she is being told by her husband, played by Colin Firth or her therapist, played by Mark Strong.
That is a strong cast and it helps that they are played against type. Strong, a usual go to British villain, seems to be a “too good to be true” honest and caring therapist while Firth, usually a charming gentleman, is a much darker character, adding another sort of rug-pull for the viewer.
There are also plenty of clever twists and reveals that add-up to a very intriguing movie. You will never be bored watching the film as it speeds along at a quick pace, never relenting considering the repetitive nature of the story.
As a viewer, you will begin to try to piece together the mystery yourself and when pieces click into place, sometimes you feel quite cheated, with story-reveals not quite being as clever or as ambitious as your own imagination and theories had assumed.
When the movie does reveal all, the story falls into a generic thriller, struggling to add a satisfying end to all that came before. It doesn’t diminish from the story too much but it never really feels like it’s going to live up to what has come before it.
Overall, Before I Go To Sleep is a very good idea, executed well but lacking in real ambition. The cast play against type well, particularly Firth, and this adds to the mystery. You will find yourself surprised, which in itself will be a shock considering how ordinary a lot of the story is, opting for safer, more generic story-reveals than something that could really surprise you.
Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)