‘The Forgotten’ cops out but still good

I have somewhat conflicted feelings about “The Forgotten,” this week’s hot new thriller. I was indeed thrilled at times, and the audience in the theater was indeed gasping and screaming in all the appropriate places. I was satisfied for the majority of the film. But the ending failed me.

“The Forgotten” is the story of a grieving mother named Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) whose son Sam was killed in a plane crash a year earlier. One day, various mementos of Sam begin changing or disappearing; his baby book is blank, he’s disappeared from photographs, and videotapes of him seem to have been erased. Telly blames her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards), who responds by informing her that this memorabilia has always been blank. Apparently Telly miscarried and invented memories of Sam as a means of coping. Telly refuses to believe this and embarks on a quest to discover the truth, along with a guy named Ash Correll (Dominic West), who was father to Sam’s friend.

Much of this movie is done right. The acting is very solid across the board, the plot moves along at a brisk pace, and there are some really nifty jump scares in it. An interesting paranormal element gets introduced and this leads to some creepy visual and sound effects. One moment near the end, I got a genuine chill up my spine. On a visceral level the movie is very effective. But when you start to think about it, it falls apart.

The writers of “The Forgotten” had the very difficult task of explaining a series of events that defy several natural laws. Ultimately, there is very little in the way of explanation. Fundamentals like “who are they?” and “how did they do that?” aren’t addressed at all. The movie promised me more.

By and large, characters react believably to extraordinary events. However, there are a few moments where the screenwriters got lazy. A character suddenly believes something too easily, makes an extreme action out of nowhere, or is unnecessarily vague when answering a question. It’s as if the screenwriters struggled to make the plot move forward and took a shortcut by strong-arming their characters into behaving unnaturally. It never happened to the protagonist, but most of the other characters did it at one point.

Much of my opinion of the movie is tied up in its third-act revelations. Getting there is an undeniably fun ride, and the vast majority of the film works quite nicely. This movie is for anyone looking for a few thrills but be warned, it asks questions and refuses to answer them.