Don't Get Bogged Down in 'The Mist'

Friday, November 23, 2007

Frank Darabont's new film "The Mist" is more political allegory than horror movie.

Darabont is something of a Stephen King specialist: His best film was "The Shawshank Redemption"; he also did "The Green Mile." This time he's working from a King novella. Thus, the setting is the inevitable Maine seacoast village, where commercial artist David Drayton (journeyman handsome guy Thomas Jane) makes his nice living designing the jackets of . . . Stephen King novels. The setup is simple. One day after a violent storm has wreaked havoc, word comes of some kind of crisis at a nearby military base. A heavy, almost liquid mist drifts out of the mountains and soon ensnares the town. By this time, David and his precocious son, Billy (Nathan Gamble), are in the grocery store, which is basically the setting for the film as the townspeople become trapped there.

After adjusting to their new reality (it's raining carnivores!), the townspeople quickly decamp into two cliques, and the political battle between them interests Darabont far more than the monsters in the mist. David becomes the leader of what might be called the rationalists. Darabont insists on breaking his society down by class lines. These are college-educated or managerial types, outsiders mostly. The others are led by the great actress Marcia Gay Harden as the evil Mrs. Carmody. First treated as a loon and dismissed by the elite leaders, she hits on populist chords and soon steals the group's loyalty. She ultimately claims that the mist is God's punishment and that every night, one must be sacrificed to appease his anger.

There's a glib twist at the end, which seems out of character, and the movie could easily lose 20 minutes, maybe 40.

-- Stephen Hunter

The Mist R, 127 minutes Contains violence, gore and strong language. Area theaters.

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