Pascal Laugier, the director of the indelibly disturbing film Martyrs, returns with this interesting story of a small mining town besieged by a serial child kidnapper. Filled with an unnerving sense of dread, the movie works its way under your skin, promising cringe-worthy tension to come -- until it switches gears and turns into a wholly different film. By doing so, Laugier opens the door to some viewers being disappointed by what the film most certainly is not, even if what the picture turns out to be is more fascinating than the simple genre tale it initially presents itself as.
Jessica Biel is terrific in the lead role as Julia, a doctor in a depressed area where more than a dozen children have gone missing. New to the case is FBI agent Dodd (played by Pontypool's extremely talented Stephen McHattie), who's gathering up clues related to the culprit known as the "Tall Man." To give any more away than that would be a disservice to the film -- just be ready to follow the story through its many twists and turns before the credits roll.
Laugier once again impresses in the visuals department, as the movie is soaked in deep shadows that fit the spooky atmospherics of Todd Bryanton's score. Kudos also go to Biel for having the guts to perform in what is ultimately a non-glamorous role. Despite these high points, however, the film's moral core is problematic and might leave audiences a little hesitant to agree with it. It's possible that Laugier wants the movie to be debated (a similar case could be argued with Martyrs), but the fact is that The Tall Man is not as resoundingly unique as the filmmaker's last work, which gives it a bit of an identity problem. Still, some respect is due for a film that builds itself up to be one thing before ending someplace wholly different.