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When architect Dan Marrick and his wife go over a cliff in their car, one New Year's Eve, Merrick awakens in a hospital, with a face like hamburger meat and no memory whatsoever. He is about to go on a disturbing, dangerous journey of self-discovery, as he slowly puts two and two together, learning which version of reality is true; the one given to him by his loving wife, or the one to be constructed with the help of a private investigator.
Written by Wolfgang Peterson, based on a novel (The Plastic Nightmare) by Richard Neely.
Directed by Wolfgang Peterson.
"He's the best there is! Actually, he's the only one there is!"
The tension and suspense in this excellent, Hitchcock-like mystery thriller begins immediately from the beginning credits, complete with spooky music. The audience gets a view out of the front window of a car, which is traveling down a winding, mountain road, somewhere in Marin county in the fog. The car at first is being driven normally, but then starts to go faster and faster, swerving around the corners.
The audience then gets the view from the other side of a stone wall along the road. It is still and quiet. Suddenly an expensive sports car crashes over the wall, comes straight down on the steep hill on the other side, and starts its vicious roll down the hill. A woman, Judith Merrick (Greta Scacchi), is thrown from the car early on, but the man inside, Dan Merrick (Tom Berenger) is banged around pretty badly, until what is left of the car rests at the very bottom. This sequence of scenes was very well done!
At the hospital, not only was Dan Merrick physically in critical condition, but his face was pulverized, because his head went through the windshield. (Someone wasn't wearing his seat belt.)
When he finally comes out of his coma, he has no memory of who he is, but he finds his loving wife there to love, help and support him, coaching him with pictures, telling him stories of their history together. He undergoes extensive plastic surgery to rebuild his face. Toward the end of his hospital stay, the couple becomes amorous, and pleasant bits of memory, such as waves on a beach, and a ceiling fan enter Dan's mind as they make love on the hospital bed (tastefully done.) After more plastic surgery, and physical therapy, he is released from the hospital and the happy couple comes home, where Dan is in for some distressing surprises. While their deluxe home seems familiar, bits of disturbing memory bombard him suddenly when he looks into the bedroom mirror, triggering a rage.
When he notices a picture of himself holding a tobacco pipe, he goes into his study, and starts to fix his pipe, hoping to trigger a memory or two. At the bottom of the tobacco bin, he discovers a roll of incriminating picture proofs that plant the thought that his marriage wasn't in good shape before the accident. Further disturbing pieces of information about himself and his wife surface from his business partner, Jeb Scott (Corbin Bernsen) and his wife Jenny (Joanne Whalley), when the Merrricks go over to their house for a welcome back dinner.
As he checks out what clues and bits of information that he has picked up, and hears what he did as a business partner, he discovers that he wasn't a very nice guy in his life before his car accident. His wife was no angel either, who seems to have her fair share of character flaws. He continues not only to try to find out who he is, but now wanting to find out the truth about what happened before the accident.
While looking through his papers at his desk at work, he comes across a rather large bill sent by a pet shop owner / private investigator, the colorful Gus Klein (Bob Hoskins). So, Merrick goes to see him, discovering that he was the private investigator that Merrick had apparently hired to trail his wife, and had taken the disturbing photos found in the tobacco box. Now things really start to pop in the storyline, with twists and turns to keep the audience on the edge of their seat, trying to figure out the truth. Merrick and the private eye work together to figure out the web of lies and deceit, the sinister clues, unknowingly facing an unknown danger in the process. Uncovering the truth can be a dangerous occupation.
This screenplay flows with the twists and turns, which keep popping out at the audience, right up to the exciting, shocking ending. The screenplay has the audience thinking one way, until something happens in the story, which points in another direction, with the effect of totally engaging the audience. Shattered is a mystery thriller classic because of its riveting, clear, plausible storyline, its gifted and insightful direction, faboulous cinematography and musical score, and a terrific cast who brought the whole project to life. This mystery thriller was directed expertly by a master of suspense, an acclaimed German film maker, Wolfgang Peterson, who also adapted this screenplay from the novel, The Plastic Nightmare, by Richard Neely. He knows how to put a mystery thriller together. Every twist and turn is portrayed very clearly by Wolfgang Perterson, and there are no wasted scenes - each scene ads to the total development of the story, and contain clues for the audience to chew on, along with our protagonist, Dan Merrick.
Wofgang Peterson, who was trained as a director in Hungary, was nominated for Best Director and for the Best Screenplay adapted from another source for the film Das Bout. He crossed over into directing Amercian films afterwards, bringing his talents to such films as Air Force One, Enemy Mine, and In the Line of Fire.
The fine cinemaphotography, which includes some fine slow motion, and dream -like sequences was directed by one of the most respected directors of photography, Laslo Kovacs, who was first noticed by his work on Five Easy Pieces. He has filmed a wide variety of types of film genres, from action (Paradise Alley) to romantic comedies (Retun to Me.)
The musical score was composed by the versatile, immensely talented Alan Silvestri, who has composed music for a variety of film genres. This composer captures the spirit and suspense of this mystery thriller. Among his other films, he composed music for Romancing the Stone, The Fifth Floor, all Back to the Future films, The Predator films, The Mummy Returns, Reindeer Games, and all of Robert Zemeckis' films.
Tom Berenger shines in his portrayal of the very confused Dan Merrick, a man lucky to be alive, determined to find out the particulars of who he is and what the truth is, no matter how disturbing or dangerous it may be.
Character actor, Bob Hoskins gives an entertaining performance of the pet store owner, Gus Klein, who is also a private investigator to earn extra money to feed his pet shop animal pets, which range from a snake to a monkey.
Greta Scacchi, does a wonderful job portraying Merrick's loving wife, Judith Merrick, who has some disturbing idyocencracies that Scacchi slowly, subtly shows the audience in bits and pieces, as the direction and storyline allows.
This film is rated R, for the 17 and over crowd.