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Originally published July 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 24, 2008 at 12:18 PM


Movie review

"X-Files" movie both satisfies and disappoints

Mulder and Scully are together again in "X-Files: I Want to Believe." The story may be silly, but the agents' romance is compelling as ever.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

"The X-Files: I Want to Believe"

With David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner. Directed by Chris Carter, from a screenplay by Carter and Frank Spotnitz. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic materials. Opens late Thursday at several theaters.

You can watch "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" as a sci-fi thriller or as a romantic tragedy, but it works much better as the latter: Former FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) — though I've no idea why I'm using their first names; no one else ever does — are one of the great screen romances. Through the ups and downs of the nine-season TV show (it went off the air in 2002), the two actors forged a chemistry so palpable you could almost see it lighting up the space between them. Both characters were cool and cerebral; each drawn to the other's intelligence, yet repelled by a crucial difference exemplified in this movie's title. Mulder believed in the paranormal because he wanted, badly, to believe in it; Scully, the skeptical doctor who dwelt in facts, wanted to believe but couldn't.

Like a lot of people, I stopped watching "The X-Files" long before the series ended; it just became insurmountably mystifying. But I missed Duchovny and Anderson's deadpan exchanges, and the way she would look up at him (she's short, he's tall) searchingly and soulfully, trying to read his quiet face. So "I Want to Believe," directed and co-written by series creator Chris Carter, is at turns both disappointing and satisfying. As a movie, it doesn't add up to much; as another glimpse at two characters who remain fascinating, it's worth seeing.

The movie plays remarkably like a longer episode of the TV show; it's a stand-alone story, not requiring much knowledge of what came before. Both Mulder and Scully have left the FBI long ago; she's a physician at a hospital; he seems to spend his time cutting things out of newspapers. It seems that they live together, though that's not entirely clear. (In the grand tradition of the X-Files, the truth is still out there, somewhere.) A call from the FBI brings them back into the world of the paranormal: Mulder's assistance is needed in a case involving a missing FBI agent and a priest (Billy Connolly) who sees visions of the missing woman.

The story, once it unfolds, turns out to be both uninvolving and a little silly; you may well raise an eyebrow to the ceiling at the missing agent's potential fate. A subplot involving a seriously ill patient at the hospital should have the other brow joining the first: Dr. Scully meticulously Googles "stem cell research," prints out some random things, and almost immediately presides over surgery using her new-found knowledge? (No, I don't want to believe. At least, I want to believe that doctors have access to something better than Google.)

But, after six years, it's a kick to watch Duchovny and Anderson gazing into each other's eyes again. Screen chemistry is as mysterious as any X-Filed paranormal event; it's hard to pin it down precisely. Watching this film, though, you just want these two characters together (even though we learn, in a brief scene, that they dissect toxicology reports as pillow talk), as they just don't seem right apart. Mulder and Scully, two lonely misfits in an unwelcoming world, are destined to be each other's other half; calling out each other's name in the darkness, so rarely seeing light.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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