Among the many virtues of the movie thriller Twilight:
(1) A successful modern-day film noir, full of world-weary gumshoes, the privileged rich, and lots of corpses. Newman plays Harry Roth, a retired detective who works as a live-in handyman for Hollywood stars Jack and Catherine Ames (Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon). Jack asks Harry to deliver a “package” (read: blackmail payment) for him, and once Harry gets involved, he can’t help nosing around. This sounds uninspiring at first, but it’s thought-out well enough to include labyrinthine plot twists, memorable supporting characters (James Garner is terrific as a retired-cop friend of Harry’s), and some crackling dialogue.
(2) An intelligent, witty story, written by adults, for adults. Co-writers Robert Benton and Richard Russo, director Benton, and star Newman pulled off a similar miracle a few years before with Nobody’s Fool, and they’ve done it again. The movie’s tone is confident enough to have a funny conversation just before a shooting begins. Any movie that can mix moods that well is a winner.
(3) A movie that feels “lived in,” allowing its viewers time to soak up its atmosphere. Even though Twilight is all of 94 minutes long, its leisurely pace put off a few critics who have been trained in MTV-style viewing. When a movie’s elements work this well, you don’t have to rush them.
(4) A sterling cast. Newman, Hackman, Sarandon, Garner, Stockard Channing, Reese Witherspoon, and “Breaking Bad’s” Giancarlo Esposito are superlative. My only regret about the movie is that one of my favorite character actors, M. Emmett Walsh, makes a great entrance and then gets shot before he utters a word.
(5) Paul Newman. As in Nobody’s Fool, Newman’s face is a movie in itself. And let’s face it–any movie that undresses Susan Sarandon and still leaves you more in awe of Newman’s 73-year-old form…