Spinning Man (2018)

  • Time: 100 min
  • Genre: Drama | Mystery | Thriller
  • Director: Simon Kaijser
  • Cast: Guy Pearce, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver, Odeya Rush, Alexandra Shipp


Evan Birch is a family man and esteemed professor at a distinguished college, where his charm and reputation have made his philosophy class very popular. When a female student named Joyce goes missing, Evan’s previous off-campus dalliances make his wife question his alibi. Gruff police Detective Malloy has even more reason to be suspicious when crucial evidence makes Evan the prime suspect in Joyce’s disappearance. Suddenly, the questions Evan faces aren’t merely academic – they’re a matter of life or death.


  • Did he or didn’t he? That is the central question of Spinning Man, based on a novel by George Harrar and starring Guy Pearce and Pierce Brosnan. Whilst screenwriter Matthew Aldrich occasionally raises intriguing philosophical questions on truth and memory, the film is ultimately a limp if somewhat serviceable dramatic thriller that’s nearly bereft of thrills.

    Pearce plays Evan Birch, a family man and esteemed professor, who would, on the surface, seem the least likely suspect in connection with the disappearance of a high school girl (Odeya Rush). Yet director Simon Kaijser is quick to establish the reasons why Evan is a viable candidate. His wife Ellen (Minnie Driver) alludes to an incident years prior that caused them to move to another state. A student (Alexandra Shipp) apologises for what happened the previous semester. Though he presents himself as an upstanding sort who would never cross the line with his students, it’s clear from his fantasies that he definitely entertains it.

    Then there’s the circumstantial evidence that connects him to the missing girl, evidence which puts him in the crosshairs of Brosnan’s dogged detective Robert Malloy. “What I perceive as the truth is the best my memory will allow,” Evan continuously states in one form or another throughout the film, and what his memory allows often seems to run counter to what Malloy discovers. Evan claims not to have ever met the victim, yet strands of the girl’s hair are found in his car. The scenes between Pearce and Brosnan are the most interesting parts of the film; one strongly senses how both men admire and respect each other’s intelligence and how both glean enjoyment from their cat and mouse game.

    Unfortunately, the film attempts to be too clever for its own good and ends up being a soft-boiled mess. The resolution, if one can call it that, does adhere to the idea of multiple versions of the truth, but doesn’t use it to maximise impact.

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  • In the year 2001, I saw Christopher Nolan’s Memento and that’s when I discovered Aussie actor Guy Pearce. In Spinning Man (my latest review), Pearce sort of reprises his role from seventeen years ago as a guy who well, has a really foggy memory (unfortunately Guy’s got no tattoos this time, sigh).

    Pearce’s character also drinks casually, has affairs with college girls, goes totally walkabout, and merits himself a worldly philosophizer. “Spinning”, with its compact and conventional film-making by Simon Kaijser, saddles Guy with a regimented and unassumingly underplayed performance. You could call his Spinning Man Memento lite for it’s less dangerous, non-tetchy, and far less foreboding.

    Anyway, “Spinning” chronicles a college professor named Evan Birch (Pearce). When one of Birch’s students goes missing, he becomes the prime suspect in her eventual murder. Evan while mild-mannered and readily insouciant, has to deal with a nosy detective on his heels (Robert Malloy played by Pierce Brosnan), the loss of his tenured job, and a pessimistic, ball-breaking wife (Ellen Birch played by Minnie Driver).

    Did Evan or did he not kill this young girl and hide her battered body? That’s the question and it’s told in willful, inch by inch fashion via “Spinning”.

    Spinning Man, which could’ve had a rating of PG-13, feels like a restrained Law & Order episode told from the point of view of the would-be criminal as opposed to Lt. Olivia Benson. Kaijser’s direction has just the right amount of flash, Brosnan and Pearce have scenes that slightly crackle, rural LA looks credible, and “Spinning’s” ending sort of turned the tables on me.

    Critics have called Spinning Man formulaic, incoherently twisty, purposeless, and forgettable. I on the other hand, dug its intrigue and its cat and mouse tenor. In truth, “Spinning” may be a safe thriller that rides the kiddie hill of apprehension. Still, it has moments that put it ahead of drivel like Secret in Their Eyes and 2016’s diluted pic, The Snowman.

    Bottom line: Spinning Man with minimal violence, decent scripting, and binding flash-forward in tote, keeps its head on a cinematic “swivel”. I’m not sure “Spinning” got a theatrical release so the best way to see it is On Demand. Rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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