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Jessica Biel: Forget “Total Recall”!

August 6, 2012

She first made her name as the virginal Mary Camden on TV’s 7th Heaven, but Jessica Biel’s big-screen career has mostly been hellish. After a promising debut as a teenager opposite Peter Fonda in the indie gem Ulee’s Gold, she’s done a seemingly unending stream of bad action movies (Stealth, The A-Team, Blade: Trinity), rom-coms (Valentine’s Day, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry) and horror films (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.0). Now she’s costarring opposite Colin Farrell in the biggest bomb of her career, Total Recall. Despite her knock-down dragout catfight with genre queen Kate Beckinsale, the ill-conceived reboot grossed an unremarkable $26 million in its opening weekend—roughly the same amount as the Arnold Schwarzenegger original made in its first frame more than 20 years ago and $100 million less than the reboot cost to produce.

But Biel’s got another, much less heavily hyped film in the marketplace that better reflects her particular talents: The Tall Man, a French-Canadian psychological thriller shot two years ago and now available on VOD in advance of its theatrical release next month. She gives a beautifully measured performance as Julia Denning, a nurse in a dying Washington mill town where children keep disappearing—and the locals blame a possibly mythical figure known only as “The Tall Man.” After Biel’s young son becomes one of the missing, the story takes a number of unexpected twists, and Biel’s close-to-the-vest work keeps you guessing until the film’s haunting final scene.

Eerily written and directed by Pascal Laugier and narrated by a seemingly mute teenager (The Cabin the Woods‘ Jodelle Ferland), The Tall Man makes good use of its spooky Northwestern locations and employs a couple of X-Files veterans, William B. Davis (aka Cigarette Smoking Man) and Stephen McHattie (aka Red Haired Man), as lawmen to add to the creepy atmosphere. Like this year’s underrated Elizabeth Olsen vehicle Silent House, it’s several cuts above your average slasher flick.

Biel also exec-produced The Tall Man, and she seems to be taking control of her career and moving it in a different, more interesting direction. Although Nailed—the political satire she shot in 2008 with director David O. Russell—still awaits a release date, she’ll play Vera Miles opposite Anthony Hopkins’ Master of Suspense in the upcoming biopic Hitchcock and has a couple of other intriguing indie dramas lined up. If any of them tap into the same evocative vein as The Tall Man, Biel could finally become known as something more than just Justin Timberlake’s eternal fianceé.

Has Jessica Biel ever impressed you on the big screen? Maybe in The Illusionist, The Rules of Attraction or Home of the Brave? Post a comment!

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3 Comments
  1. keimah permalink

    shes not at ol a talentd actress

  2. Icouldn’t refrain from commenting. Very well written!

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