Set in Los Angeles, Fracture (2007) sees a wealthy aeronautical engineer Theodore ‘Ted’ Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) shoot his wife at point blank range in their family home, after discovering she is engaged in a discreet affair with police detective Robert Nunally (Billy Burke). The shot is overheard from outside the gated mansion, and the alarm is raised. Meanwhile, Crawford burns his clothes and washes meticulously but does not attempt to flee the scene, as his wife is left close to death in a pool of blood. The investigating officer who arrives at the scene is none other than her lover Nunally, who upon recognizing her identity violently apprehends and disarms Crawford. With the supposed murder weapon and a signed confession taken at the scene, this appears to be an easily wrapped up last case in the DA’s office for William Beechum (Ryan Gosling) before he moves to a private firm.
However Crawford decides to represent himself in court, and despite the mutual awareness of his guilt, manages to manipulate the circumstances and gain acquittal for the charges of attempted murder on the grounds of a technicality. Beechum, heavily affected by this turn of events, and a lost case on his record, takes it upon himself to substantiate Crawford’s guilt, turning the film into a fierce battle of wits between its two lead males.
Hopkins is exactly as we expect and hope he will be: an almost as cunning manifestation of his earlier and most famous character Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Although he plays an older and less sadistic character, whose motivation is occasionally understandable, he nevertheless retains that unnerving balance of evil intent and genius that he displayed 16 years earlier.
His younger opponent, much like Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs, is ambitious and relentless in his pursuit of justice. Gosling holds the screen well, with a fresher face and somewhat dated cropped haircut than in his more famous pictures. Appearance aside, Gosling plays a role slightly at odds with the rest of his filmography. In Murder By Numbers (2002), Gosling essentially plays a Hopkins-esque role, meticulously planning the perfect killing. Whilst in his more recent films he has been criticized for being typecast as the broodingly quiet outsider with a penchant for criminality. Instead in Fracture he is firmly on the side of the law and justice, and vocally so.
Whilst Fracture’s plot doesn’t quite carry the same weight or intricate study of the criminal psyche as The Silence of the Lambs, it amounts to a gripping viewing, if only for the on-screen clash between its two stars. Interestingly, it manages to feel more akin to 1991 than 2007, with a prevailing retro haze that makes the Motorola RAZRs and MacBooks look rather out of place.