Along Came a Spider (film)

Along Came a Spider is a 2001 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Lee Tamahori. It is the second installment in the Alex Cross film series and a sequel to the 1997 film Kiss the Girls, with Morgan Freeman and Jay O. Sanders reprising their roles as detective Alex Cross and FBI-agent Kyle Craig. The screenplay by Marc Moss was adapted from the 1993 novel of the same title by James Patterson, but many of the key plot elements of the book were eliminated. The film was a box office success, although receiving mixed reviews from critics.

Along Came a Spider
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLee Tamahori
Screenplay byMarc Moss
Based onAlong Came a Spider
by James Patterson
Produced by
CinematographyMatthew F. Leonetti
Edited byNeil Travis
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 6, 2001 (2001-04-06)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$28 million[1]
Box office$105.2 million[1]

Plot edit

Alex Cross was a detective, forensic psychologist and author in Washington, D.C. for many years, but he recently retired from the force after a sting operation ended in the death of his partner. His departure is short-lived when Megan Rose, the daughter of a US senator, is kidnapped from her private school by Gary Soneji, a computer science teacher. US Secret Service Special Agent Jezzie Flannigan is held responsible for the breach in security that allowed Soneji to take the girl. In response, Alex Cross and Jezzie Flannigan join forces to track down Soneji and find Megan Rose.

After Cross receives a phone call from Soneji, he is struck with horror and panic when he finds a small sneaker in his mailbox. Cross soon realizes that Soneji is trying to emulate the 1932 Charles A. Lindbergh Jr. kidnapping, a crime so infamous that it became known as the Crime of the Century. With the knowledge that Soneji is trying to make a name for himself in the same way as Richard Hauptmann, Cross is even more determined to bring Soneji to justice and get Megan back safely, which he posits is a storyline worthy of one of his true crime books.

Despite Soneji's now-public identity, the FBI is unable to capture him until Cross secretly tracks his calls and locations. Unbeknownst to Cross and Flannigan, Soneji's abduction of Megan is only a small part of his elaborate plan to secure greater fame. His coordinated kidnap plot is then revealed to center around the son of the President of Russia, Dimitri Starodubov. Soneji attempts to capture the young boy without absolute management from police and security guards.

However, before he is able to kidnap Starodubov, Cross and Flannigan confront Soneji and rescue the boy. In desperation, Soneji sends Cross a ransom demand asking for $10 million in diamonds from the president. If Cross fails to comply, Soneji will have no further reason to reach an agreement and Megan will be killed. Knowing there is no other recourse, Cross complies and follows a set of directions to a number of public phone-booths spread out throughout the city where he will make deliveries and collect further instructions. Cross eventually delivers the diamonds by throwing them off a moving train to a man in black.

Soneji soon arrives at Flannigan's home in order to kidnap her and use her as ransom. However, after arriving and disabling Flannigan with a taser, Soneji finds Cross present, who confronts him about the ransom. Cross comments on Soneji receiving $12 million in ransom, to which Soneji does not react. He realises that Soneji did not demand the ransom, and when Soneji attempts to escape, Cross shoots him dead.

Upon further investigation, Cross realises that Flannigan had known about Soneji for some time now, and had used him as a pawn in her own plot to collect a ransom from Megan's family. She and her fellow Secret Service agent Ben Devine had crafted a plan together to do just that, and had been slowly gathering Soneji's information to use when the time was right. Cross realizes that someone had discovered Soneji long before his plot became active, and can't help but think that Flannigan has been playing them all along. This culminates in Cross accessing Flannigan's personal computer, which contains all the details of the Soneji plot leading up to the kidnapping of Megan, the attempted kidnapping of Dmitri, including his information, timelines, and plans.

Cross soon tracks Flannigan down to a secluded farmhouse. Here, Flannigan has brutally murdered Devine, and she is now intent on killing Megan now she’s no longer of use of her plans but Megan sees right through her lies. Cross gets the better of Flannigan though and arrives in time to prevent another tragedy, much to her shock. As Cross confronts and holds Flannigan at a gun point, demanding Flannigan to put the gun down, as Flannigan cruelly tries to manipulate Cross, asking would he kill another partner, but to no avail as he replies she’s not his partner. Flannigan desperately but recklessly tries to shoot Cross but he still holding the gun up shoots Flannigan dead. Cross comforts Megan and takes her home to her parents.

Cast edit

Production edit

Writing edit

One of the primary elements of the book screenwriter Marc Moss eliminated from his script was that Soneji is actually a mild-mannered suburban husband and father suffering from dissociative identity disorder resulting from having been abused as a child. After a lengthy trial for kidnapping and several murders not included in the film, he is found guilty but remanded to a mental institution to serve his sentence. Also missing from the film is a romantic relationship shared by Cross and Jezzie, her trial and eventual execution by lethal injection, and the discovery of Megan (Maggie as she is known in the book), hidden away with a native Bolivian family near the Andes Mountains, two years after her kidnapping.

A few other minor differences from the original book include: Dimitri (Michael "Shrimpie" Goldberg as referred to in the book) being kidnapped at the same time as Megan (Maggie); Megan's (Maggie's) mother was the more famous of her parents, being a popular actress; when the children are kidnapped they are sprayed with chloroform spray.

Reception edit

Box office edit

Box office receipts totaled US$105,178,561, of which $74,078,174 was from the United States having earned US$16,712,407 in its opening weekend at 2,530 theaters.[1]

Critical response edit

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 32% based on reviews from 126 critics. The site's critics consensus was: "Derivative and contains too many implausible situations".[2] On Metacritic the film has a score of 42% based on reviews from 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[3]

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times called the film an "overplotted, hollow thriller, which crams in so much exposition that characters speak in fetid hunks for what seems like minutes at a time ... But Spider couldn't be better served than it is by Mr. Freeman, whose prickly smarts and silken impatience bring believability to a classless, underdeveloped thriller ... Still, he is wasted in this impersonal, almost inept thriller".[4]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a mixed 2 out of 4 stars, calling it "loophole-riddled, verging on the nonsensical". He wrote: "I'm wondering, since Dr. Alex Cross is so brilliant, how come he doesn't notice yawning logical holes in the very fabric of the story he's occupying?" Nonetheless, Ebert thought that Freeman's performance was commendable: "Maybe actors should be given Oscars, not for the good films they triumph in, but for the weak films they survive".[5]

Robert Koehler of Variety felt "the very characteristics that have made Cross so appealing, particularly his mind-tickling abilities to assess and outmaneuver his criminal opponents, are reduced here to the most fundamental and predictable level ... As reliable as any actor in Hollywood, Freeman delivers the requisite gravitas, but the bland script curtails any personal touches he might have inserted were his sleuth character unraveling a truly vexing mystery".[6]

However, critic Harvey O'Brien weighed in with the sentiment that "unlike, for example, the overblown kidnap movie Ransom, Along Came a Spider plays down its sensational elements. It favours the procedural aspects of Cross' investigation which, though infected with the usual 'Eureka' factor of brilliant discoveries by the leading man at regular intervals just when it looked like he was stumped, are largely delivered with sincerity. Freeman has such a strong grip on this kind of determined, middle aged, everyman character by now that he can easily take the audience along for the ride. The film itself is otherwise sincere in general, with no real attempt at smarmy black humour or winks to the audience. It draws you in to a (relatively) realistic depiction of a tense situation in which people behave less like action heroes and more like human beings".[7]

Compuserve's Harvey Karten argued: "Some critics will tell you that despite Lee Tamahori's overplotting of Marc Moss's adaptation of James Patterson's novel, Along Came a Spider is one of those thrillers that allow you to check your brains at the door. Not true. Did the journalists all go for popcorn when Detective Alex Cross and Special Agent Jezzie Flannigan (nice spelling) engaged first in a discussion of psychology and then of philosophy? This may have been Phil 101, but imagine the interest that must have been aroused in the audience with a product placement for university education. Says Cross in discussing what makes us choose our careers: 'You do what you are'. 'Not so', replies Jezzie, every hair in place, not one gram of makeup disturbed, despite the excitement of the discussion... 'You are what you do'".[8]

Accolades edit

Jerry Goldsmith won the BMI Film & TV Award for his original score, and Morgan Freeman was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture but lost to Denzel Washington for Training Day.

Series reboot edit

There were no further sequels, but the character of Alex Cross was rebooted with a 2012 film adaptation of the novel Cross under the title Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry in the titular role.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "Along Came a Spider". Box Office Mojo., Inc. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Along Came a Spider (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 10, 2020.
  3. ^ "Along Came a Spider". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  4. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (6 April 2001). "FILM REVIEW; Weaving an Intricate Web To Trap a Wily Kidnapper". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 September 2012.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 6, 2001). "Along Came A Spider". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved October 10, 2020 – via
  6. ^ Koehler, Robert (March 31, 2001). "Along Came a Spider". Variety. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  7. ^ "Along Came a Spider".
  8. ^ "Review for Along Came a Spider (2001)". IMDb. Archived from the original on 2016-03-10. Retrieved 2022-06-10.

External links edit