M. Night Shyamalan's thriller seems to be about an alien invasion but it's really about grief that stopped its hero, an ex-priest played by Mel Gibson, in his tracks. We don't know the details until a climactic flashback shows a regret-filled police officer (Jones) telling him his wife is dead. Jones deals with a lot of the exposition in the surprisingly moving film, imbuing it with compassion and grace (and, maybe, a hint of romance?).
One fiery speech establishes Jones, playing an activist fighting injustice in 1950s Manhattan, as the conscience of Edward Norton's stylish reimagining of Jonathan Lethem's novel.
The intelligent tear-jerker didn't have much of an impact when it came and went from theaters last winter but I hope people discover it at home. Dakota Johnson plays a woman who is struggling with cancer. Jones plays a hospice worker and doesn't show up until the end. Her dignity, compassion and honesty make sense of the film's approach to death and dying.
The simplicity of Jones' performance, as one of the few people in the movie able to resist Julia Roberts' bulldozer charm, is breathtaking. Her character only gets a couple of scenes but Jones gets across that she's so beaten down from fighting a gas company that's poisoning her family that she doesn't even have time to feel bad about it anymore. I'd bet money that director Steven Soderbergh cast her because he knew that in the scene when she finally agrees to help Brockovich, a single Jones close-up would tell us everything we need to know.
How much can one actor pack into five minutes of screen time? Let Jones show you. First, she's a hardened FBI agent who advises a quaking Matt Damon he's about to spend the rest of his life in prison, with rats gnawing on his toes. Seconds later, because that's the way the "Ocean's" movies roll, everything has changed and she's Damon's smothering-but-playful mom. And there are strong hints that's not the end of her surprises.
'CRADLE WILL ROCK'
Tim Robbins' all-star historical drama isn't quite sure what it wants to be when it grows up, but Jones energizes the liveliest, brightest parts. As Hallie Flanagan, a government arts honcho during the Great Depression, she brings a light touch to farcical walk-and-talk scenes and — quite believably — enthuses about how much she loves live theater.
In conversation, Jones is breezy and funny but we don't get to see her do much comedy, maybe because she conveys such authority. This women's-trip movie, featuring Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey, makes smart use of that, casting Jones as a very serious, very woo-woo tarot card reader who warns the women that they're doomed. Jones doesn't have any funny lines but she's so serious that her lack of humor is hilarious.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367©2021 StarTribune. Visit startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. ©2021 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.