Movie Review

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ThePledgeis a film that was directed by Sean Penn based on the novel writtenby Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The film involves Jerry Black as a retiredpolice detective whose retirement party becomes interrupted by themurdering of Ginny. Jerry becomes disturbed by this murder and, as apolice detective he tries to search for the killer. Jerry and otherdetectives interview a suspect, Jay Wadenah, a man with mentalretardation who confesses to have murdered Ginny but commits suicideusing the gun from one of the deputy detectives. The other detectivessee the end of the case, but Jerry does not believe the killer diedso he goes on with his search. At the end of the film, Jerry stillbelieves that the killer is still at large. In the film, differentmotifs have been indicated. A motif is an image, action, sound, orother figures, which have a symbolic importance and contributestowards theme development. A motif is usually recurrent in a literarywork. In this report, the use of motif in ThePledgewill be discussed.

Oneof the motifs in the film entails a gas station. In the beginning ofthe film, the police detective is shown to be sitting on a bench thatwas placed outside a disused gas station. After discovering themurder of Ginny and initiates the search for the killer, he comesacross a suspect that confesses to have killed Ginny but ends upcommitting suicide. According to him, the killer was still living andso he continued with the search. It is during the search that henoticed a gas station that was near the lake he buys the place inorder to be capable of tracking the killer. At the end of the film,Jerry is indicated to be sitting on a bench which was placed in frontof the ruined gas station.

Inthis case, the gas station has been used to indicate the presence offailure in accomplishing what is intended by Jerry. It is apparentthat gas is not tangible because it cannot be seen or felt. In thefilm, Jerry is a retired police detective, but it seems that it isvery difficult for him to be in a position to carry on the detectivefunctions. This is why he has the encounters of gas stations. OnceJerry and other detectives got a suspected killer, who had a mentalretardation, he confessed to have killed Ginny but eventuallycommitted suicide. This is to indicate that Jerry was still notsuccessful in finding the killer of Ginny, despite swearing to thedaughter’s mother that he will find the killer. At the end of thefilm, Jerry is still indicated sitting in front of an old gas stationmumbling, which is an indication that Jerry is disturbed by thefailure of accomplishing his work as a detective.

Anothermotif is that bad things happen to good people in the film while goodthings happen to bad people. In the film, Jerry Black due to his goodnature goes to inform the mother of the murdered girl about herdaughter. Jerry promises the mother that he will search for thekiller until he/she is found. However, the pledge that Jerry makes tothe mother becomes an obsession to him when he discovers that unlikein his other previous cases, logic, psychology, and science would notsolve the crime. Therefore, despite his good-intended decisions, heends up facing challenges in finding the killer. In the process ofsearching, there are some indications that an Indian can be thekiller being hunted due to his criminal record, chocolate in thestomach of the victim, candy wrappings on the Indian’s car, and hispresence at the crime scene. Although the criminal records and otherthings depict the Indian as a possible culprit in the case, theIndian is not found to be guilty. Therefore, Jerry is not in aposition to succeed in finding the killer, despite his goodintentions.

Furthermore,another motif that emerges in the film is that every location seemsto be a controlled environment that actually emerge and are out ofcontrol. This can be supported by the farewell party that isorganized for the retired police detective Jerry. The sereneenvironment during the party became disturbed by the discovery of themurdered child mashed on the soft white snow. Also, this motif can beindicated by the situation of the suspected Indian. The detectiveshad sufficient information to believe that the Indian could be thekiller of the murdered child however, the police station with itskeys, guns, and locks temporarily lost control when the suspectedIndian grabbed a gun and shot himself. In addition, Jerry selectedthe gas station as a strategic location where he could easily catchthe killer, but the gas station does not produce the killereventually. Despite the gas station being near the murder, it failsto offer the much needed outcome. Moreover, the picnic area isdepicted as under control with a team of police hidden nevertheless,the operation fails to deliver as planned.

Fateis another motif that is depicted to emerge in the film. From thefilm, it is evident that it is not possible for individuals tocontrol their fate. This can be indicated by different situations inthe film. One such incident is the murder of the child althoughothers are depicted to be partying, the child meets her death bybeing murdered but there was nothing that she could have done tocontrol the situation. Another situation is where Jerry finds himselfin the search for the girl’s killer. Because of Jerry’s fate, hefinds himself trapped in the search for the killer and the film endswhiles still searching for the killer. Furthermore, fate can bedepicted in the Indian’s situation. After being suspected as themurderer of the child, he ends up committing suicide using a gun thatwas not his.


Inthe film, ThePledge,various recurrent images, actions, sound, and ideas have been used inbringing out varied motifs. One of the motifs entails the use of goodenvironments that by chance end up with emerging and uncontrollableissues. For instance, the party environment becomes destroyed by thediscovery of Ginny’s murder. Other motifs depicted in the filmentail the use of fate, good things happening to bad people and badthings happening to good people, and presence of failure inaccomplishing what is intended among others. The sole purpose ofusing these motifs in this film is to help in bringing out themes inthe film.

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