The Ring is a suspense/horror film directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Ehren Kruger. The Ring is based on the hugely successful Japanese film Ringu (directed by Hideo Nakata and written by Hiroshi Takahashi), which itself is based on a hit novel of the same name by Kôji Suzuki. The film centres around Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts), a reporter and single mother, whose teenage niece dies under mysterious circumstances: As far as the coroner can tell, her heart just stopped. The body was found with a terrified countenance and looking as though she had been underwater for some time. At the urging of Keller's sister (her niece's mother), she begins investigating what could have happened to her niece and discovers that, with three other teens, the girl had watched a strange tape exactly a week before her death. The other three teens that watched the tape turn out to be dead as well.
After watching the tape, according to some friends of the deceased, they received a phone call which informed them that they would die in seven days. Keller eventually finds the tape and watches it herself, which may sound stupid from the audience's perspective, but keep in mind this sounds like it isn't much more than an urban legend to the characters in the film. The tape is filled with dark, surreal images, showing an earlier description of its content as "something out of someone's nightmare" to be accurate. As one might expect, after viewing the tape, Keller receives a phone call. A small voice tells her, simply, "seven days."
From here on out, the film follows Keller's search for the origins of the tape in the seven days that follow. Drawn into the apparent curse of the tape is her ex, Noah (Martin Henderson), and their son Aidan (David Dorfman). As more of the mystery is unravelled, the images on the tape begin to make sense, piece by piece, like a puzzle coming together. This puzzle assembly is at once mysterious and satisfying as the film moves along, until the end when the audience is thrown a twist. The twist works though, as there are things that hinted to it throughout the film. Everything in the film is not explained in simple terms for the audience, despite flashes of imagery from the tape when imagery in the world around the characters corresponds to it. Missing what happens in one scene may leave the viewer thinking something was left unexplained. Some reviewers have even complained that the film leaves too much unexplained. While some significant pieces of the film are never fully explained, little that is important is left without at least an idea given of its reasons for being.
The film is intricate in both dialogue and cinematography. The imagery, and colour in particular, is of major import. The tape's imagery is all in either grey or grey-tint, while much of the environment outside the tape appears, at first, in brilliant colours (the red sunset being especially noteable thanks to false colour infrared film). As the film goes on and Rachel and Noah get closer to the origins of the tape, the world around them becomes greyer, in both colouration (thanks to heavily overcast skies) and subject matter. For someone whose previous credits include a family comedy, an action comedy, and the creation of the Budweiser frogs, Gore Verbinski certainly has no problem creating a viewing experience that will send chills down your spine.
Complimenting Verbinski's excellent direction is Naomi Watts' acting as an aggressively curious reporter. David Dorfman's performance as her son is also good, especially for someone his age, though at times he actually seemed too mature (though this may be more of a script issue than acting). Martin Henderson's performance as Noah is good as well, though not as much as Watts or Dorfman's. The only bad acting in the film is from the two teenage girls in the beginning, though, as can be expected in a horror film with characters like that, their parts are small due to unfortunate events.
The only thing truly bothersome about the film (assuming that being creeped out isn't bothersome) was how the ending was presented. The actual ending to the story itself isn't the problem but how the last twenty or thirty minutes of the film show it. Three or four times the film feels like it has concluded and begins to fade out, only to begin another scene again. The film seems to drag a bit because of this, as though the film makers' are trying to decide which ending they like better and are taking the audience along with their decision making process.
DyRE's super-duper overall rating: 8/10.
The Ring was released by Dreamworks SKG in 2002. The MPAA rating is PG-13 "for thematic elements, disturbing images, language and some drug references." I'm not sure why "thematic elements" are mentioned with regards to the rating (careful kids, it has themes!) and the number of "drug references" is about one.