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August 25, 2010

Disclosure (1994)
Director: Barry Levinson
Actors: Michael Douglas, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland

Synopsis: Tom Sanders (Michael Douglas) has just been surprisingly passed over for promotion, in favour of company outsider, and his ex-girlfriend, Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore). Johnson makes a sexual pass at Sanders, which he eventually snubs. This takes on more sinister proportions when Sanders returns to work the following day to find himself at the centre of a potential harassment suit….

Review: This is an entertaining piece of fluff from the Hollywood hokum factory, and its relative success probably owes as much to the consumate craftsmanship in-front of and behind the camera, over any especial brio in the story itself. Despite the film’s promotional bent focusing on the corporate sexual politics angle (as emblematised by Demi Moore straddling Michael Douglas), arguably the film’s main intrigue comes from its more generic thriller mechanism as Douglas seeks to uncover a series of deceptions – not just the harassment claim – that threaten his career and livelihood.

Barry Levinson adheres to these thriller conventions by creating a great sense of location (Douglas’ gorgeous bohemian bayfront house contrasts well with the ultra-sleek interiors and exteriors of the Seattle downtown area where his office is located), and by allowing dialogue and character development – instead of frenetic editing – to convey the tautness of the plot. Levinson is equally wise to trust in such a classy ensemble of support actors (Donald Sutherland, Caroline Goodall and Dylan Baker, to name but a few) to populate his narrative, and his lead duo are cleverly cast from an iconographic perspective. Douglas is a past-master at conveying the Waspish man-in-peril from Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, and Moore certainly looks the part as the kickass female executive, though a touch more subtlety to her performance would have been ideal.

It’s also interesting with hindsight to see how the film gets great mileage out of almost making sinister, the early, embryonic days of electronic technology in the workplace. Emails, video conference calls, mobile phones, and even virtual reality document systems, play their part in building up the sinister conspiracy that Sanders has to unpick. (February 2009)

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