Today’s Prayer Focus

Don't Say a Word

MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for violence, including some gruesome images, and language

Reviewed by: Jason Eaken

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Crime Thriller
1 hr. 53 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
September 28, 2001
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Fox click photos to ENLARGE -1
Relevant Issues
Michael Douglas in “Don’t Say a Word”

How far would you go to get someone you love back?

Featuring Michael Douglas, Famke Janssen, Sean Bean, Jennifer Esposito, Oliver Platt
Director Gary Fleder—“Runaway Jury” (2003)
Producer Arnon Milchan, Arnold Kopelson, Anne Kopelson
Distributor Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

“Don’t Say a Word” is the type of movie where we know what will happen, but we don’t exactly know how, so we watch. Chances are, good will triumph over evil. That is rule number one of melodrama, which is what the movie is. But when did it become wrong to suspend reality while watching a movie? As I recall, one of the basic reasons for film is to entertain, and this film does, mostly. It is nowhere up to par with the recent “The Deep End” as a thriller or anything else, but that’s okay. God created all men, not films, equally.

Michael Douglas plays Nathan Conrad, a respected psychiatrist who lives in New York City with his wife (Famke Jansen) and daughter Jessie (Sky McCole Bartusiak A.K.A. the little girl from “The Patriot”). The movie opens with a botched heist, as the film establishes its villain played here by Sean Bean.

We flash forward ten years to the day before Thanksgiving. Conrad is on his way home when he is called by his ex-partner (played by Oliver Platt) to examine an emotionally distraught 18 year-old named Elisabeth (Brittany Murphy).

In case anyone didn’t see the trailer before seeing the film, the director makes it very clear that she will become involved in the plot about five minutes after her first scene. Conrad goes home, sees his wife, his little girl, the usual. But of course, when he wakes up the next day his daughter has been kidnapped. The villains soon call the Conrad residence to explain to him their demands. They need him to“retrieve” a six digit number from the mind of Elis Abeth, which will tell the thieves where the stolen valuable stone (from the 10-year-ago heist) is located.

Brittany Murphy and Michael Douglas in “Don’t Say a Word”

Up to this point, “Don’t Say a Word” is rather dull, with the exception of the Brittany Murphy character, who is creepy in a really fun way. Now Michael Douglas is swept into a—you guessed it—race against time to figure out the code and get his daughter back. Douglas has a nice way of delivering under pressure and extreme circumstances, and the movie mixes in a few subplots, one we don’t care about, involving a detective on the case of a missing person which we all know will eventually entangle her in Douglas’s situation, and another subplot, involving Mrs. Conrad, who has a broken leg, trying to escape from an attacker (played amusingly at times by Guy Torry in a likeable few scenes). The film suspense builds nicely, though it borders on, and occasionally topples over the edge of, cliche.

There is some profanity in the movie. I saw reports of 16 “F” words. That sounds about right. Personally, I wasn’t too offended by this, though some Christians will be. There is no sex or nudity in the movie, but there is a bit of semi-disturbing material dealing with Elisabeth.

The film asks a thought provoking and common question: how far would you go to get someone you love back? I know that Christ would go to the ends of the Earth in order to bring even one child of His back to Him, but that really doesn’t seem to have any merit with a movie like this.

This movie isn’t intended to enlighten anyone, or if it was, I totally missed it. It is simply meant to be an interesting and somewhat engaging two hours in a movie theater, which is precisely what it is.

Viewer Comments
Negative—As Christians where do we draw the line? This movie was recommended to me by a Youth at our Church, and I am shocked. My wife and I knew nothing of this film except for what it said on this web site. An “AA” rating in Canada?…The language was very offensive. The movie contained very unsuitable and provocative scenes. If you want to see an elderly lady murdered, and a young girl trying to seduce an older man… this movie is for you (Question: What would Christ say?). We are in a world of terror, when you go to see a movie wouldn’t it be nice to get away from the reality. that’s why my wife and I go. We both were very disturbed by this film… which is very predictable, and immature at best. The acting is borderline amateur. The first word in the film is offensive, and it remains that way until the end. I wish we would have left… I guess I was hoping for some relief. don’t GO SEE THIS MOVIE… PLEASE!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 1½]
John, age 27
Of all the films I gave thumbs down to, don’t Say a Word is definitely the best. Michael Douglas gives an excellent performance. The chemistry he has with his wife and daughter is perfect and the scene when he discovers that his daughter has been kidnapped is so realistically handled its scary. Sean Bean is terrifying as the leader of the sadistic band of kidnappers. But don’t Say a Word suffers from the fact that it piles on too much on its plate and therefore the good parts seem small by comparison. The murder investigation by Jennifer Esposito is well done and suspenseful but once I found out how it was connected I realized it really only served two purposes (a) to fill time (b) to put a police officer into the thriller since the “unwritten law of the cinema” seems to require them in thrillers of this type. Britany Murphy is good as the mental patient who knows where the stolen diamond is but is given little to do and in fact spends the latter part of the movie being dragged around…
My Ratings: [Average / 2½]
Andrew, age 25
This movie was exciting and suspenseful. There were objectionable words used but not out of the ordinarily heard dialogue on the streets of New York. A great story.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
Jim VandenHeuvel, age 35
Movie Critics
…16 F-words, 4 scatological terms… 2 religious profanities, 6 religious exclamations…
…graphic violence and dialogue laced with obscenities and the Lord’s name in vain…
Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…an excellent thriller with a strongly moral point of view…
Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide