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IN SHORT: Nice. Nice. Very Nice. [Rated [R], 119 minutes]
At most any other time of the year, "nice" would be see as a wait-for-rental dismissal, but this isn't any other time of the year. With the deluge of A-list starflicks seeking Oscar®, The Third Miracle is a film that could get lost among them. That'd be a damned shame 'cuz it is a beautifully written, acted and visually creative film -- and I thank my lucky stars that I saw the flick almost two months ago. The sheer exhaustion of sitting through the three hour monstrosities would have dulled my senses to a quiet, beautiful and totally top-grade flick.
I've noted here and there that I've seen a growing trend towards singular plots and non-existent sub-plots in a lot of the "bigger" films. What sub-plots there are, in flicks such as The Messenger or The Insider or Anywhere But Here seem to carry very little weight or have much impact upon the main story. The Third Miracle focuses on Frank Shore (Ed Harris), a Catholic "postulator" -- a priest who investigates possible miracles prior to the start of any potential canonization process. When we first meet Frank, he has dropped out of the Church and must be summoned back to the Fold by an order from the local Bishop (Charles Haid). It seems that, every November whenever it rains, a statue of the Virgin has been bleeding tears of blood. Miraculous cures, all attributed to prayers to a deceased Chicagoland housewife named Helen O'Regan (Barbara Sukowa), have been reported. Shore has these miracles to investigate.
Prior to going any further, you should know that I am not Catholic and current Jewish thinking doesn't put much faith in "miracles" in this Modern Age. The specific organization, protocols, rules and laws of the Roman Catholic Church are a mystery to me and, despite, almost total ignorance of the politics of the Church, there is no point in this movie where any needed information is missing. There is no procedural action that isn't clear from the script and acting. Nothing is figuratively thrust under your nose to clear up any questions about what you see on screen. It isn't necessary 'cuz it's a damned fine script by John Romano and original novelist Richard Vetere, one which doesn't suffer like most adaptations from the material that has to be left out.
Father Shore is good at his job. So good, he's been nicknamed "The Saint Killer" after uncovering heretical beliefs of a deceased priest. Shore is a man who Believes, but his Faith is wavering to the point that he personally tests each miracle "giver" by praying to them for a restoration of his beliefs. What he receives, as in all things that are God given, is not what he expects. The investigation of O'Regan begins in a neighborhood where a previous canonization process had been derailed by the Father. To be sure, bad feelings about that earlier incident remain.
Shore's investigation proceeds in two directions. He must find Maria Witkowski (Jade Smith) who, as an eleven year old girl diagnosed with terminal lupus, had been miraculously healed by the first shedding of the statue's "blood." He must investigate the life of Mrs. O'Regan, which leads him to O'Regan's daughter Roxanne (Anne Heche), a lapsed Catholic who still carries anger at her mom for "abandoning" her, for life in a convent, years earlier. It isn't just Father Shore's faith that is being tested. It's something far more below the belt. What's worse for him, as the process continues, Shore must defend both himself and the deceased against the personal and theological attacks of Archbishop Werner (Armin Mueller-Stahl).
That doesn't even begin to include trying to "see" the miracle of the bleeding statue firsthand. Or testing the "blood" to see if it's real. Or putting a damper on the media circus that grows around the investigation. Or the discovery of another "miracle" at play in this story, involving an incident in WWII. I'll leave those things to your own viewing pleasure.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Third Miracle, he would have paid...
The Third Miracle is is really good stuff.
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