We know that the so-called "conspiracy theories" have become popular. To their fans, there is virtually no detail of our everyday life that isn't likely to be associated with any weird conspiracy. In this case, the film associates this idea with numerical obsessions and the search for patterns and relations between totally distinct occurrences. The concept explores the surreal, and is quite original, in that it's uncommon in thrillers (at least, I don't remember any thriller with this recipe before).
The screenplay tells how Walter, a perfectly ordinary man, begins to feel threatened and chased by a number after reading a disturbing book. He seeks, and finds, these number attached to different facts and situations, and we begin to question ourselves about his sanity. The film starts well: the initial credits, graphically elegant, were an original way of introducing the theme to the audience and giving it some credibility. I also liked the way Walter is introduced, and how the film emphasized his normality. He's just a guy just like any other, with values and integrity, trying to get his life, who ends up getting caught up in an obsessive whirlwind. His transformation is evident and, at that moment, we're already attached to him because we gain some sympathy for Walter, and our curiosity is fed by every discovery.
However, certain things become too predictable... for example, it's clear from the outset that Fingerling will be a negative alter-ego of Walter. Predictability should have been avoided and corrected, but it's still a minor problem... the biggest problem is the end, which leaves the guiding line too long and ends up having a disappointing and anticlimactic result. A more built and less conventional ending would have made this movie exceptional. At that point, it was a missed opportunity.
I have nothing to say about Joel Schumacher's direction. He's far from being a very good director but has succeeded here. On the other hand, I have a lot to talk about Jim Carrey. I am increasingly convinced that this actor has been underestimated. He became popular thanks to comedies and got very attached to them in our head, so we were surprised when we realized that he can also be a great dramatic actor. But let's be honest: it wasn't his first dramatic film, on the contrary. He seems to be making an effort to show us versatility, and it's up to us to realize that. He was very good here, made a solid and well made work... and I believe I realized, I can see better the potential of this actor. Harder to swallow were the sex scenes. In fact, I felt that, sometimes, they were left in the film. But it's alright. Virginia Madsen also did a good job here, as a dedicated wife and companion or a fiery Italian, with somewhat nymphomaniac outlines (the two actors played two characters, ego and alter ego).
Technically, the film has some brilliant moments. Cinematography begins with warm tones but suffers a violent concussion with Fingerling, carrying itself of cold tones, light-dark, emptiness and shades. From then on, as the obsession progresses, everything becomes colder. I also noticed some excellent camera shots, including the intelligent use of reflexes.
This movie is one of those that can get us mad... it had everything to be very good. An original idea, excellent actors, an able director and good production values. The script started well and was convincingly developed... but when they should have put the cherry on the top, everything collapsed like a house of cards. Frustrating.