February 3, 1999 -- "A Simple Plan" is a powerful story about greed and what it does to people. One of the best films of the year, it reminds me a lot of some of the films directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
In Hitchcock films like "Lifeboat," the director explores the depths to which people will go in the right circumstances, including murder. He also liked a story that ends with a devilish twist. Director Sam Raimi ("Army of Darkness" and "Darkman") covers some of the same emotional turf here in a story about three friends who find a fortune in unmarked bills at a plane crash.
The three, Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton of "Twister"), Jacob Mitchell (Billy Bob Thornton of "Sling Blade") and Lou (Brent Briscoe), decide to keep the money and not tell anyone. The plan, of course, begins to fall apart at once since the drunken, talkative Lou can't keep his mouth shut, and neither can Jacob.
Hank decides he will keep the money until spring and then the three will decide what to do when the plane is found and the origin of the money is discovered. That doesn't work because Lou needs the money and begins to distrust Hank. Deep-seated resentments begin to surface among the three and they begin to quarrel.
Hank's wife, Sarah (Bridget Fonda of "Jackie Brown"), at first opposes keeping the money, but then becomes an active participant in keeping the money and making sure the three-way conspiracy hangs together. Eventually, her own dissatisfaction with her life boils to the surface.
Jacob is the source of more revelations in the film as he wants to buy back the family farm, now abandoned. Jacob at first appears to be slow, but it turns out he knows more about the family than his college-educated brother, Hank. Eventually, the simple plan turns to murder and tragedy.
While the basic plot is not too surprising, there are a few twists here and there to keep things interesting. Thornton's performance, along with Paxton's, are worthy of Oscar nominations. They are fascinating and utterly believable. All the performances in the film are compelling, including the key performances of Briscoe and Fonda. The story, by Scott B. Smith, based on his novel, is tight and compelling. This film rates an A.
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