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SPHERE

SYNOPSIS:
Psychologist Dr Norman Goodman (Dustin Hoffman) is unexpectedly summoned by the government to a spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to join a cadre of specialists supervised by a mysterious team leader, Barnes (Peter Coyote). Among them is biochemist Beth Halperin (Sharon Stone), who shares a past with Goodman, and a sceptical mathematician, Harry Adams (Samuel L. Jackson). The project team is asked to embark on a mission exploring a massive spacecraft that seems to have been submerged, untouched, for almost 300 years on the ocean floor. They take up residence in a high-tech deep-water habitat, where they discover a remarkable sphere, which appears to have some form of intelligence. As they try to unravel its meaning and function, they are cut off from surface contact during a hurricane, and horrifying incidents begin to unfold, with each of their subconscious terrors becoming real.

"Sphere takes an intriguing concept, and delivers a sci fi thriller with psychological twists and a high flying cast to elevate it above sea level, but fails to reach the heights to which it aspires. Barry Levinsonís adept direction and reasonably intelligent script with a wry sense of humour, takes us fathoms under the ocean bed where concepts of time travel are married with human flaws of paranoia, suspicion and resentment. Itís a classy cast, with Hoffman solid as the shrink who seems to have more nouse than many of his profession; Stone, complex as the mildly neurotic biochemist and Jackson enigmatically compelling as the sceptical mathematician. Itís to the credit of the actors that we are engaged most of the time, teetering on the see saw of uncertainty, especially as the film is overly long and could easily be trimmed. The eclectic music includes pieces from Haydn, Mozart and Duke Ellington - occasionally strident, or as changeable as the moods of the ocean. At times genuinely thrilling with some startling visual effects, watch for the scene with the parachutist-like jellyfish, whose dazzling visuals become increasingly terrifying. The oceanís equivalent of Event Horizon with a little bit of Brainstorm thrown in for good measure, Sphere at times fascinates with top performances, but the plot dwindles towards the end with the outcome rather predictable."
Louise Keller

"All my colleagues on this page have been underwhelmed by Sphere, and I am, too; it is a very good example of the current malaise in Hollywoodís studio thinking. This film, like Event Horizon and others, is basically a Saturday afternoon B picture, except that big name stars are cast in the lead roles and the FX budget is huge. The fact that filmmakers have these new digital tools has blinded some that better and bigger effects make better movies. They donít actually make a Saturday matinee picture better; they just make it more expensive. Add the star salaries, and the studio has to present it as an event movie in the hope that the stars and the FX will bring in enough people in the first weekend to insure against heavy slides thereafter, with a kick-in from video, cable and tv sales at the back end. Sphere has some good elements, namely the said stars and FX; it also has a script which tries very hard to be metaphysically connected, observing (as an aside so it doesnít scare off the teenagers) glumly that we humans are basically a bunch of shits, when it comes down to it. Whether you agree with that or not, the film is asking too much of its audience in other departments: patience and forgiveness."
Andrew L. Urban

"Here is another case of wrong director, wrong film. Director Barry Levinson, who excels in such wonderfully etched character-based gems as Rain Main and the current Wag the Dog, is way out of his depth here. Sphere is a film full of potential and fascinating ideas, enmeshed in a sea of confusion. With its high profile cast going through the motions, Sphere has its moments, but they never gel to create the masterful film it could have been. Aliens meets Contact is the cinematic hybrid here, but the end result has neither the dark edginess of the former or the intellectual and spiritual grandeur of the latter. Instead, this is a hotch potch of ideas loosely connected and never fully realised. Add to that a trite love/hate story between a glib and amusing Hoffman, and a dour and dull Stone, and the film drifts even further. The most appealing performance comes from the under-utilised Liev Shreiber as a fiercely passionate physicist. For the most part, however, this Sphere is both mis-shaped and definitely dead in the water."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 4
Mixed: 1

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SPHERE (M)15+
(US)

CAST: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Coyote, Liev Schreiber, Queen Latifah, Marga Gomez

DIRECTOR: Barry Levinson

PRODUCER: Barry Levinson, Michel Crichton, Andrew Wald

SCRIPT: Stephen Hauser, Paul Attanasio (adaptation by Kurt Wimmer, based on the novel by Michael Crichton)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Otto Nemenz

EDITOR: Stu Linder

MUSIC: Elliot Goldenthal

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Norman Reynolds

RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 2, 1998







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