Time: 107 mins.
I'm generally a big fan of Kenneth Branagh's work because he not only makes Shakespeare come alive on film, but when he isn't adapting the bard he creates movies, like this one, that are about interesting people and places. When he concentrates on bringing characters to life, he is a good director, when he doesn't it isn't pretty (like FRANKENSTEIN). DEAD AGAIN is his first American movie and even though it's plot hinges on past lives and fate, it is a simple, suspenseful, well-made thriller. The kind of movie that's hard to come by these days. Branagh's character, Mike Church, is a Los Angeles private detective who is "forced" to take care of a woman, played by Emma Thompson, who's lost her voice and her memory, until she can return to her normal life.
Placing her picture in the local paper brings many crazies out of the closet, the sanest of which is an antique dealer who claims he can bring her memory back through hypnosis. After her first session, she regains her voice and memories of a past life, in which she believes she is a woman, Margaret Strauss, who was murdered by her husband, Roman, 40 years earlier. This is where the film gets a little hokey, but it portrays the past life sessions with a little skepticism which I think keeps the film from lapsing into total silliness. Branagh's character is the unbeliever and he keeps us wired in the present...that is until he's regressed himself. It is at this point that the film capitilizes on our innate desire to believe in reincarnation and an enduring, everlasting love.
We know/hope that Roman was not the true murderer and this is what keeps us involved in the story. Of course, the couple has formed a love attachment in the present which is ruined by the knowledge of their supposed past. The end gets a little convoluted and the true murderer dies in a fairly silly way, but the resolution is satisfying if a little too pat. If the plot wasn't so unusual and the acting so well-done, this would probably have been just an average suspense film. Luckily for those of us who love the genre, it's not.