Conspiracy Theory (1997)
Conspiracy Theory (1997)

Genre: Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.

Release Date: August 8th, 1997 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Richard Donner Actors: Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart, Cylk Cozart, Saxon Trainor, Claudia Stedelin




ou’re looking for a man with no nose! Not me!” Just as that might be construed as a quirky twist on “The Fugitive,” it’s clear that drollness tinges the panic and irreverence that go hand in hand with Mel Gibson; he plays crazy incredibly well. And thanks to the collaboration with director Richard Donner, who previously helmed the “Lethal Weapon” movies, and writer Brian Helgeland, who penned “L.A. Confidential,” “Conspiracy Theory” is adorned with plenty of action and suspense to flesh out the brilliantly twisted story, the eccentric characters, and the undeterminable series of increasingly more abstract events. It’s a highly charged thriller with a consistently entertaining mystery and frequent, dark humor that certainly does justice to its title.

Jerry Fletcher (Mel Gibson) is not too different from Detective Riggs as far as his reasoning is concerned – he’s a largely loony New York taxi driver with wild opinions on governmental plotting and paranoid suspicions about everyone. He’s also a master of worthless trivia. But no coincidence is without a conspiracy – the Grateful Dead are all spies; Oliver Stone is a disinformation junkie for the United States; NASA is trying to kill the president; and “they” and “them” are behind it all.

Jerry lives in a tiny storage compartment with four locks on his door and a padlock on his refrigerator; expectedly, his puny dwelling is booby-trapped from all sides. His main hobby consists of writing up and printing a conspiracy theory newsletter, which he distributes through the mail (to a total of five subscribers). The astonishingly irrational man also has a weird obsession with buying copies of the book “The Catcher in the Rye” (“You must think I’m crazy, huh?”); it’s a habitual inkling that sets upon him as if he was programmed to do so periodically.

He’s also plagued with random, bad flashbacks, which are momentarily alleviated by spying on Justice Department lawyer Alice Sutton (Julia Roberts) as she exercises in her nearby apartment. After Jerry is abducted, tied to a wheelchair, and tortured with “gravy for the brain” injections and seizure-inducing lights, he narrowly escapes, turning to Alice for help – but winds up being arrested. Now he’s a wanted man who must elude the police, teams of secret agents, and an incomparably evil doctor named Jonas (Patrick Stewart) – a twisted psychiatrist affiliated with an unknown, super-secret government agency – all while continuing to drag Alice into his frenzied escapades.

Stewart channels a “Marathon Man” interrogation mindset (“Who else knows!” he repeatedly demands), the music by Carter Burwell (“Fargo,” “The Jackal”) is appropriately chilling, and Gibson and Roberts’ chemistry isn’t half bad – but ol’ Mel is the highlight of the show. His nonsensical ramblings, wild-eyed expressions, spontaneous, destructive decisions, and corny jokes rarely disappoint. It’s a rambunctious escape adventure full of fun, excitement, and unpredictability; if viewers can’t figure out where the film is going within the first hour or so, “Conspiracy Theory” is working its magic.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10