Abandon
Grade: B
Year: 2002
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Writer: Stephen Gaghan
Genre: Thriller
Rated: PG-13

Rarely is the title of a movie so important to its actual context. While almost every movie is about its title; the theme of Abandonment in this one is the motive for how everything molds together. Abandoned by her father when she was a small child, Catherine Burke suffered emotionally, knowing that she would never see her father again. This distress eventually occurs again later on in her life, by her boyfriend this time. The exact trauma caused isn't known until the end, as this movie does a good job proving how awful it is to be abandoned by someone who was close to you.

There is a difference between Abandon and most other college campus films. This one is smart. The students are smart, and the conversations are smart. Movies such as "Rules of Attraction" overemphasizes the erotic appetites of college students, and exaggerates it to the point of being unrealistic. While we donít know the name of the university in this movie, it is clear that it's not a school where the students can only function on meaningless parties and raves. The kids in this movie are actually ambitious. But it's also different from your comedies and dramas, this is more of a thriller, although there is plenty of drama and comedy to go around.

Catherine Burke (Katie Holmes) is getting ready to graduate from college. She has just landed herself a job at a prestigious business firm, and is almost complete with her thesis paper. She has good friends and everything appears to be going well for her. That is, until she gets a visit from Detective Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt). He is investigating the two-year disappearance of Katie's former boyfriend, Embry (Charlie Hunnam). She immediately goes on the defensive when asked if she still sees him or knows of his whereabouts, but eventually accepts him and becomes friendly with the new cop on campus.

The memories of her former boyfriend have made more difficult for her to get school work done. On top of that, she spots him one day driving in his car. Has Embry returned? He was Katie's first real boyfriend. He built up her self-esteem, and promised to take her to Europe where they will live happily ever after. But one day, Embry leaves with no explanation, breaking Katie's heart. She hasn't dated since he left, despite the fact that every male on campus, including the non-students, want to get with her.

Abandon takes a long time to get the ball rolling, not skipping any details. I appreciated the pace and enjoyed watching the talented Holmes start off as the normal college girl who eventually stresses out over having to study for finals, write papers, and go on job interviews. There is also the fact that she is nothing short of beautiful. She has to deal with putting down her best friend who finally admits that he's in love with her, and has been regularly seeing a therapist who may also be attracted to her.

This is by no means a scary movie. Embry comes back in a stalking manner, and that has its thrills. Katie becomes frightened and turns to her new detective friend for comfort. But flashbacks of Embry don't convince you that he can be an obsessive psycho who has come back for the girl he once loved. Or can he? Director Stephen Gaghan's style for brining Embry into the picture is mostly effective. There is an all-too familiar scene that takes place after hours in an old-fashioned library. Katie has been working on her thesis, and doesn't leave until she is the last one in the building and it is pitch black outside. Conveniently for the plot, a startling visit from Embry soon shakes things up a bit.

Besides Katie walking by long rows of bookshelves, there are other creepy atmospheres, including a deserted building where the detective goes (only at night of course) to investigate. There is also an isolated house in the country that Embry uses to lure Katie into him. Any chance for her to be alone and unprotected can be creepy. Paranoia is another effect Embry has on Katie and it has prevented her from getting enough sleep through any one night. She often wakes up in the middle of the night in her small and claustrophobic dorm room. Looking for company, she goes into the hallway, but she appears to be the only one there.

The script is good and the dialogue is often funny. But in terms of rating this as a solid thriller, Abandon is simply lacking. Those hungry for something to keep them on the edge of their seat will find this movie disappointing. At one point, a friend mysteriously disappears to keep you guessing. Just how crazy is Embry? And what does he want with Katie, and how far will he go to get her back?

The best part by far was the ending. The plot twist wasn't so big that it contradicted the story, and it didn't spawn anymore twists to make it ridiculous. It got the right reaction from the audience and it had people shocked when they thought they already figured it out. If you like Katie Holmes, you'll like Abandon. But don't expect a fast paced thriller. It does get where it needs to go, only it takes a while to get there.

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