Combustible Celluloid
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With: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Blythe Danner, William B. Davis, Armin Mueller-Stahl, John Neville, Terry O'Quinn, John Neville, Mitch Pileggi, Jeffrey DeMunn, Lucas Black
Written by: Chris Carter, based on a story by Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Directed by: Rob Bowman
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense violence and gore
Running Time: 122
Date: 06/19/1998

The X-Files (1998)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Fight the Future

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

What UFO conspiracy movie would be complete without a scene of the heroes running through a cornfield with helicopters chasing them? The new X-Files movie, directed by Rob Bowman, and written by the show's creator Chris Carter, from a story by Carter and Frank Spotnitz, has that and all the other elements to make a wonderful and satisfying sci-fi movie.

The big question is, will the movie stand on its own if you don't watch the show? Happily, the answer is yes. The bulk of the story is new, and first-timers should be able to get wrapped up in it.

The X-Files follows the adventures of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Mulder is a believer in aliens and the paranormal, while Scully is a scientist looking for facts and proof. After five years though, even she is beginning to believe that something may be out there. At the beginning of the movie the X-Files section of the FBI, whose task is to investigate the paranormal, has been closed and Mulder and Scully find themselves working on a routine bomb threat inspection. However, it's not long before unusual circumstances occur that call for their unique expertise. A mysterious Dr. Kurtzweil (Martin Landau, Oscar-winner for Ed Wood) tips Mulder off to something that the bomb was meant to hide.

From there, Mulder and Scully embark on their biggest adventure. I say "biggest" because the movie has more special effects than the show, and more locations (it has to be the biggest, otherwise it wouldn't warrant a movie). Fans looking for the ultimate answers will probably be surprised by a few new twists. The X-Files works so well because of what it doesn't show us, both in its situations and in its characters. The puzzle pieces come together at strange angles, and your imagination is kept working, but the puzzle as a whole is kept ambiguous and inconclusive. The treat is that Mulder and Scully come close, very close, but yet not close enough. It gives the illusion of the conspiracy running deeper than one can imagine. Mulder and Scully themselves are deadpan characters, cold and analytical, but with hints of humor and warmth dropped like crumbs here and there. This tease keeps the audience interested in them, on the one hand because we're waiting to see what's behind the facade, and also because the facade itself makes it more interesting for us to imagine what's behind it. This audience play goes back to a time before Star Wars, before everything was shown to us at face value. The X-Files belongs in the club with Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and the recent Gattaca. It owes nods to Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), and Val Lewton, the B movie maker who, in the 1940's, scared audiences to death by not showing them the monsters in Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie.

I wanted to praise The X-Files movie without giving anything away, and I think I did that, but here are a few hints: there are little glass vials containing evidence, secret car rides, and FBI hearings. And there's a great joke involving a certain expensive overrated sci-fi epic (don't tell your friends!). Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), the Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis), and Mulder's geek squad pals, the Lone Gunmen are all here, but Krycek and Agent Spender are not. New characters are played by Glenne Headly, Armin Mueller-Stahl, and Blythe Danner.

Do Mulder and Scully finally kiss? I'm not telling, but The X-Files is a smart way to beat the heat this summer.

(This review originally appeared on

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