Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

When cynical chief psychiatrist Doctor Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) hears he has a new patient claiming to be an alien named Prot (Kevin Spacey) from the planet K-PAX, he dismisses it as just another case. However, after getting to know Prot and finding out that he knows things he couldn’t possibly know, Mark begins to question if this man could be telling the truth…

In a day and age where every movie seems to have at least one explosion, two car chases and three shoot-outs, a motion picture like K-PAX is genuinely refreshing. Though it’ll likely struggle to find an audience given that modern cinemagoers sadly favour the aforementioned one-two-three punch over anything requiring thought, British director Ian Softley has crafted a beautiful film about family, connecting with others and finding the meaning in life. Much like Prot (which is pronounced to rhyme with boat), there’s a lot more going on here than a simple alien-or-not dilemma.

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Of course, what makes K-PAX and its bordering-on-silly plot so enthralling is the two central performances. On the one hand, we have the always-excellent Kevin Spacey, who overcomes the limitations of constantly wearing sunglasses (Prot is sensitive to light) with quirky style, some subtly-shifting expressions and a softly-spoken intelligence to convey a being who inspires those around him. You know, in between being stubbly and eating bananas unpeeled.

On the other hand, we have the always-quality Jeff Bridges who plays a nice reverse of his role in Starman (there he was the alien trying to prove himself) while taking what should be the less-interesting part and making it the more engaging. Though the rest of cast make nice contributions – including David ‘Sully from Commando’ Patrick Kelly and Mary ‘actually quite hot’ McCormack – their scenes are less involving than the intellectual chess match going on and end up being totally overshadowed.

While the earlier statement that there’s more to the movie than guessing if Prot is alien or not is true, it still provides a damn good hook. Throughout the two-hour running time (something less patient viewers might object to) Softley gives us enough evidence either way to justify a good argument and the ending is tailor-made for anyone smart enough to despise neat little bow-tie type denouements. Just the right amount of ambiguity: one, dumbing down to idiots: nil.

Though the same could be said of any movie, your opinion of K-PAX will depend largely on your level of cynicism. For those who like to indulge their imagination with more than a splash of existentialism, then it’ll be right up your street. However, for those that like their silver screen filled with bombs, fast cars and guns, K-PAX will probably seem a little alien.

Reviewed on: 06 Apr 2009
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A psychiatrist takes on a patient whose claim that he is from outer space is surprisingly convincing.
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Angus Wolfe Murray **

Director: Iain Softley

Writer: Charles Leavitt, based on the novel by Gene Brewer

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack, Alfre Woodard, David Patrick Kelly, Saul Williams, Peter Gerety, Celia Weston, Ajay Naidu, Tracy Vilar, Melanee Murray

Year: 2001

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: USA, Germany


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