Along Came a Spider (2001)

Action, Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Morgan Freeman, Michael Wincott, Monica Potter, Dylan Baker
A congressman's daughter under Secret Service protection is kidnapped from a private school by an insider who calls Det. Alex Cross, sucking him into the case even though he's recovering from the loss of his partner.
Derivative and contains too many implausible situations.
  • Paramount Pictures Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 06 Apr 2001 Released:
  • 25 Sep 2001 DVD Release:
  • $73.6M Box office:

All subtitles:

Trailer:

Nice moments and effective twists, but too many plot holes. ** (out of four)5/10

ALONG CAME A SPIDER / (2001) ** (out of four)

By Blake French:

In 1997, a big year for serial killer movies, Gary Fleder's "Kiss the Girls" enriched the genre with a sense of splendid atmosphere, mystery and intrigue. "Along Came a Spider," based on a novel by James Patterson, is not on that level. It is not really a sequel, but more a continuation of the adventures of Forensic Psychologist Alex Cross. It is a well-made movie with good performances and effective, unexpected plot twists and startling surprises, but so much of it is too conventional. As I watched the film, often spotting ample plot holes, I was astonished at how recycled so many of the scenes were. There is a sequence that has Cross running throughout a busy city during rush hour to deliver a ransom. The killer commands him to race from one location to the next answering pay phones. Gee, we have never seen this idea before.

Morgan Freeman reprises his role as Alex Cross who finds himself in complete grief and remorse after losing a partner during an undercover operation that we see at the beginning of the film. It starts out quick as his time of regret is shattered when he gets a phone call from a killer who just kidnapped the 12 year old daughter of the Senator (Michael Moriarty). We know this man as a school teacher named Mr. Soneji (Michael Wincott). Although under the secret service protection by Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter) and Ben Devine (Billy Burke), Soneji devised an articulate plan and now holds the girl captive on his boat.

I dare not reveal any more of the story. There are several ninety degree twists that play games with our mind. However, they are disposable and essentially unneeded, and only rationalize familiar cliches. Some of them are fun, but they seem to crawl out of holes in the plot. As the movie continues, it only becomes more absurd. And it is particularly vulnerable to logic, or perhaps it is just poorly edited. For instance, what if the detectives missed any of the killer's clues? Any given clue? Then what? His entire plan would be shot to hell because each clue he leaves sets the police up for the next one. So I question: why do killers always want to play elaborate cat and mouse games with detectives?

Unlike "Kiss the Girls," "Along Came a Spider" lacks suspense and thrills because there is little tension in its structure. We already know the killer's identity-but do we? The movie certainly ends up on different floors than where I thought it would land, and it works to some extent. I still think the movie could have had some more thrilling moments of suspense and chills instead of indulging in a crime case that is not really all that involving. Actually, we never really care if the killer is caught. Since the film's villain is so much more interesting than the good guys, I was actually rooting for him in some scenes. When the girl tries to escape from Soneji, I was hoping she would be caught, because I wanted Soneji to lay down more puzzle pieces for Cross.

There are nice moments here, effective scenes of action. Morgan Freeman is a little too calm and collected for such an intense situation, though. Monica Porter has a great performance, however, in one of the film's trickiest roles. "Along Came a Spider," directed by Lee Tamahori ("The Edge," "Mulholland Falls") has a lot of potential-but strays from its roots and becomes just another contrived thriller in which we have already seen countless times before.



Along Came A Plot Twist4/10
Precocious kids, computers, and a famous kidnapping figure into this elaborate thriller set in Washington, D.C. A guilt-ridden detective (Morgan Freeman) and his Secret Service partner (Monica Potter) try to catch a psycho who abducts the child of a prominent family. The film is aimed at viewers who like crime puzzles and mind games. There's lots of action and dark suspense.

The film's underlying concept is fascinating and clever. But the screenplay overlays the ingenious concept with implausible, and at times confusing, plot twists. After my second viewing I still had unanswered questions.

The screenplay had another weakness. At least seven times, it used TV news coverage of the abduction to advance the plot. Relying on TV news reporting is a stale and tiresome plot device that detracts from any film, in my opinion. Here, its repetitiveness made it even more irritating.

The film's characters were not particularly interesting. Freeman's Alex Cross was dull and plodding; Potter's Jezzie Flannigan was nasal and humorless. And the melodramatic music was manipulative and too loud.

"Along Came A Spider" does have entertainment value, derived from its suspenseful action, and cloak and dagger intrigue, enhanced by excellent cinematography and good set design. I just wish that the film's screenplay had been as clever as the concept upon which the screenplay was based.
The book is not closed. A mind game with a profiler.6/10

A terrific movie. Suspense, thrills and a plot that twists and turns. Detective Alex Cross(Morgan Freeman),on sick leave recovering from the lose of his partner, is called back into action when the daughter of Senator Rose(Michael Moriarty) is kidnapped from her private school. Cross is an expert profiler and is very successful in tracking down elusive criminals.

Michael Wincott plays the savvy kidnapper. Also in the cast are: Monica Potter, Mika Boorem and Dylan Baker. Penelope Ann Miller is the Senator's wife. Very tense mood throughout with Freeman strong and steady. Probably the best acting is turned in by easy on the eye Ms. Potter.

The kidnapper has the detective hurrying to keep pace in the race to save the little girl's life. A surprising twist makes for a very satisfying finale. This thriller is just that.
Underrated. 7 of 10.7/10

The plot starts out in a very straight-forward manner: a man with an ambition to become criminal legend kidnaps the daughter of a congressman right out from under the nose of the FBI. He then sends a note and a sneaker of the girl to Detective Alex Cross, hence forcing him out of his self-inflicted isolation, the reasons of which are explained in the opening scene. Along with the FBI agent who was in charge of security at the scene of the crime, he follows the clues laid out by the kidnapper in order to find the girl. And so the story goes.

The kidnapper is portrayed by the always formidable Michael Wincott, the best serial villain on that side of the Atlantic. He should have the Best Supporting Role awards piled up in his attic. Alex Cross, whom we remember from "Kiss the Girls", and portrayed by Morgan Freeman, is just the kind of cop you like best: sincere, sympathetic, intelligent, thorough and committed. Monica Potter features as the FBI agent determined to redeem herself after she let the kidnapper escape.

This may not be a blockbuster, but this solid and underrated thriller delivers what so few of them have to offer these days: a final plot twist that genuinely surprises. It shall not be revealed here.

Does What A Thriller Should, No More, No Less5/10

"Along Came A Spider" works. It may suffer from one plot twist too many, it may borrow liberally from other pictures, it may have narrative holes you could run a horse race through, but in spite of all that, it WORKS. And as everyone knows, that is about the highest compliment a film like this can be paid.

Directed by Lee Tamahori, "Along Came a Spider" hits the ground running with a bravura sequence in which a federal sting goes horribly wrong and a good agent dies. Det. Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman), the leader of the sting, goes into brooding isolation, but a year later, the daughter of a U.S. congressman (Michael Moriarty) is kidnapped from her prestigious Washington boarding school by a brilliant madman, and Cross, a mental wizard with the ability to see into the mind of the maddest psychopath, is the only one who can track the criminal's M.O. and save the girl.

Standard thriller territory, and it's given more or less standard treatment, albeit with a fair share of stylistic spark and energy. Tamahori does a good job choreographing his action set pieces, particularly that shattering opening and a nifty cat-and-mouse chase that closes out the picture. Cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti gives the film a dark, brooding visual richness, and Jerry Goldsmith contributes another thunderously effective thriller score.

The acting is also generally strong across the board. Morgan Freeman.. what can one say? I honestly cannot think of another modern actor who has done such consistently high-quality work. Granted, Cross does not seem like a role that would overly tax a top-notch thespian like Freeman, but he doesn't sell it short either, giving the character his full, commanding force. He is the tough, solid center that really elevates "Along Came A Spider" above pulp territory. Michael Wincott plays the psycho (as naturally he would; what else is Michael Wincott going to play in a film?), and gives it his gravelly-voiced best, making us hate this guy just as much as we should. Monica Potter is fine as the young security officer helping Cross track the fiend, but I was constantly distracted by the fact that her voice sounds EXACTLY LIKE JULIA ROBERTS! I swear, it sounded like she'd been dubbed. Am I the only one who noticed this? Probably, so I'll drop it.

If there's any real complaint to be had with "Along Came A Spider" (aside from my weird personal difficulties with Monica Potter's voice), it is an age-old one for a thriller: script problems. Screenwriter Marc Moss keeps things moving nicely, and there are some clever moments throughout, but the film also raises unanswered questions. What was the purpose of the weird Lindbergh website the kidnapper sets up? When will they learn that internet-related plot devices just don't work in films? What was the point of the Russian kid who seems to play such a big role in the middle portion of the picture? Why did Moss feel the need to crib his most exciting sequence, a footchase with the maniac leading Cross through Washington via cell phone, from "Dirty Harry"? Granted, I haven't read the novel by James Patterson upon which this film was based, so I may not be casting blame in the right place. But Patterson didn't write this script, so maybe I am.

As I mentioned before, however, all of this largely doesn't matter. In the moment, while it's unfurling in front of you, the film's fast pace, engaging performances, and visual polish keep you intrigued, and allow you to overlook the plot's more outrageous contrivances and awkward reversals. "Along Came A Spider" is not a perfect thriller, but brother..it WORKS.