August 9, 1997 -- "Conspiracy Theory" is a formula Hollywood thriller that works mainly because of two appealing stars with good chemistry, Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson, backed by a talented production crew.
Roberts plays Alice Sutton, a member of the justice department who is constantly being tailed by a genuine nut case, Jerry Fletcher (Gibson). After Fletcher rescues Sutton from a couple of thugs she feels she can't brush him off because she owes him a debt.
Fletcher has conspiracy theories, like the one about how the Vietnam War was the result of a bet between Aristotle Onasis and Howard Hughes. One day, one of his theories lands him in trouble. He is grabbed by federal agents (even paranoids have real enemies) and he is tortured by the mysterious Dr. Jones (Patrick Stewart) in the best tradition of Lawrence Olivier torturing Dustin Hoffman in "Marathon Man."
Fletcher manages to escape his captors and sets out to warn Sutton she is in danger too. At first, she doesn't believe him, but the evidence begins to mount that Fletcher is really onto something. The rest of the movie has the two escaping time and again from the clutches of Jones' henchmen.
Gibson and Roberts are marvelous together. Even though Gibson is known for his portrayals of crazy people, in this film he seems more mellow and vulnerable, a likable kook. Roberts is effective as a skeptic who is gradually won over to a conspiracy theory and Gibson's puppy-like charm.
It isn't a great movie. It is loaded with clichés, but it is also loaded with charm. The production values are top notch, orchestrated by veteran director Richard Donner and the musical score by Carter Burwell is exceptional. It rates a B.
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