The Number 23 is a suspense-filled, psychological thriller starring Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen and Danny Huston, competently directed by the accomplished Joel Schumacher. The movie’s plot revolves heavily around the much touted 23 Enigma, an esoteric belief that all incidents and events are directly connected to the number 23. Incidentally, this movie also marks the second time that Schumacher has worked with Carrey, the first time being the atrociously campy Batman Forever back in 1995 when Jim Carrey was still somewhat of a hot property in Hollywood.
Jim Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a successful dog catcher who has a nasty run-in with a mysterious stray dog that causes him to be late for a meeting with his wife. This results in her browsing an old bookstore and buying him a tattered old book as a birthday gift – and thus directly starting the chain of tragic events that are going to directly lead to the unravelling of Walter’s very life.
The plain, red covered book is titled …The Number 23′ and inside Walter encounters a detective story like none before. The story captures his imagination and he begins to draw parallels from the book to his own life. Worse still, the book’s obsession with the 23 Enigma soon has Walter in its clutches as his mind slowly begins to lose sight of the border between the real world and the fictional one. The number 23 begins to play its tricks on Walter’s susceptible mind and soon his levels of paranoia are fuelled to a height never experienced before. But Walter is not alone, and soon both his wife and son are involved in a madcap chase with grave consequences that may very well prove Walter isn’t quite as mad as he might believe himself to be’
Jim Carrey is often typecast as the goofy comedian, thanks pretty much to his performances in the smash slapstick comedies of the 90s, including such classics as Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, Liar Liar and Me, Myself and Irene. However, occasionally he takes up roles in genres outside the comedy realm, often to much critical success. The Number 23 I would say is certainly one of these breakout roles. He plays the role of Walter Sparrow to perfection, painting the perfect picture of a man who slowly succumbs to his own paranoia, going seemingly quite insane in the process. Jim Carrey succeeds in taking us on a journey of complete suspense and paranoia and director Joel Schumacher succeeds in crafting the perfect backdrops and scenarios to make this journey a success.
The other actors play their roles competently enough, though it must be said that Logan Lerman looked a little out of his depth as Carrey’s son.
The movie constantly switches between two worlds, namely the real world in which Walter is obsessed with the book and the story world in which the fictional detective struggles with his cases. The two worlds are cleverly tied together by using the same actors to portray characters in both the real and the fictional world, the separation of the two only being made apparent by highly effective camera effects employed on the fictional world, creating a surreal, disturbingly lighted fantasy world in which anything seems possible.
Joel is known for effectively using lighting to set tones and moods in his pictures and the Number 23 is no different. He uses the strange atmospheric effects to create a tense and sombre atmosphere to great effect and the shaky camera and tight angle shots are all employed to help fuel our own paranoia as we watch the story unfold.
That said, as much as I really, really enjoyed this movie, I can only really put it down to the fact that the movie isn’t particularly scary nor are the levels of tension and suspense ever wrenched up to such a level as to have you sweating in your seat. I’m a bit of a wussy when it comes to these types of movies and therefore I can only really handle mediocre levels of suspense before involuntarily wanting to turn the thing off or get up and make myself a cup of coffee.
Instead, the Number 23 gives us a very well thought out and planned story with a good twist in the tail, a decent level of suspense, drama and horror and an absolute stunning performance by Jim Carrey who completely hogs the limelight in this movie.
Obviously a suspense driven movie can’t succeed without a strong soundtrack and composer Harry Gregson-Williams certainly doesn’t disappoint. Known for electronic, musical atmospheres, at least as well as his melodic themes, Harry Gregson-Williams does a wonderful job in taking us through the darker realms of digital soundscapes and paints a disturbing picture at all the right moments throughout the movie.
Worldwide, the reviews of The Number 23 haven’t all been that positive, but I think that can mainly be put down to the fact that the reviewers expect something a little darker, more brutal than what the movie eventually delivers in the end, perhaps fuelled by the strong promo campaign that pushed it as a scary horror movie.
Rather it presents us with an extremely well told, tense story which holds your attention throughout the movie until a very satisfying conclusion. If you are looking for something slightly different to your normal fare of comedies and dramas, but don’t want to dip your toe into something to over the top scary and disgusting, then I can highly recommend The Number 23 for any discerning moviegoer out there.
Numbers 32:23: “Be sure that your sins will find you out.”
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_number_23