A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Dead Again" is like "Ghost" for people who grew up on movies that were not afraid of grand gestures. This is a romance with all the stops out, a story about intrigue, deception and bloody murder - and about how the secrets of the present are unraveled through a hypnotic trance that reveals the secrets of the past. I am a particular pushover for movies like this, movies that could go on the same list with "Rebecca," "Wuthering Heights" or "Vertigo." MURDER! screams the first word on the screen. Headlines tell of a Hollywood scandal in the 1940s involving the death of the beautiful young wife of a European composer. We cut to the present day. The musical score by Patrick Doyle is ominous and insinuating.
We see a threatening old Gothic mansion, we meet a cynical private eye, there is a beautiful woman who has lost her memory, a devious hypnotist who wants to regress her in a search for clues. And of course, the murder in the 1940s holds the clue to the woman's amnesia.
"Dead Again" is Kenneth Branagh once again demonstrating that he has a natural flair for bold theatrical gesture. If "Henry V," the first film he directed and starred in, caused people to compare him to Olivier, "Dead Again" will inspire comparisons to Welles and Hitchcock - and the Olivier of Hitchcock's "Rebecca." I do not suggest Branagh is already as great a director as Welles and Hitchcock, although he has a good start in that direction. What I mean is that his spirit, his daring, is in the same league. He is not interested in making timid movies.
This film is made of guignol setting and mood, music and bold stylized camera angles, coincidence and shock, melodrama and romance. And it is also suffused with a strange, infectious humor; Branagh plays it dead seriously, but sees that it is funny.