Movie Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe

They should change the name of this movie from The X-Files: I Want to Believe to …



First, some background:

“And so The X-Files ends as it began, the story of two people who have nothing but each other in the fight against the future. Was it worth it? The truth is still out there. And until they make another movie, so is the verdict.”

I wrote those words (and more) about the show’s final episode six years ago, and the review that preceded them was anything but glowing.

I’d loved the series for years, and it broke my heart to see it finish with such an awkward, ill-plotted gasp. William given up for adoption? The Lone Gunmen dead? Character threads left wide open with no resolution? What about Skinner and Gibson Praise? Doggett and Reyes?

But even though the ending FBI outcasts Mulder and Scully got was anything but happy, at least we had those last words that Mulder spoke to his lovely, beloved redhead: “Maybe there’s hope.”

That hope has finally sprung eternal, with writer/director Chris Carter and co-writer Frank Spotnitz skillfully crafting an intimate, redemptive story I’ll be cherishing for a long, long time.

Scully’s a doctor at a Catholic infirmary, tussling with hospital (and religious) bureaucracy over a radical, painful medical procedure she wants to try on a young patient named Christian who’s dying from a rare disease. (Marco Niccoli will break your heart in half as Christian; this kid is good.)

To give you an idea of what Dr. Scully is like, think back to that scene in the classic “Home” episode where Mulder told Scully he’d never thought of her as a mother before, and it was actually her idea to raid the Peacock family’s house full of freaks and traps without waiting for backup. That’s the best way I can describe Dr. Scully — Gillian Anderson is beautifully inspiring (and more beautiful than ever) as a motherly protector fighting her way through a soul-shattering crisis of faith.

Our favorite fugitive, meanwhile, is having a crisis of being Mulder, sitting alone in their house all day while Scully brings home the bacon. He lines the walls with newspaper clippings about paranormal activity and longs for the days when his crazy hunches saved lives and made a difference.

When I interviewed Duchovny for in December 2004, he told me that Mulder’s sense of humor was a sign of intelligence:

My interview with David Duchovny

If that’s true, then Duchovny’s performance in this film makes him the smartest man alive. Still quick with the quips, Mulder also shows plenty of heart and knows he’s at his best with his partner by his side.

But things between the two get strained when the FBI approaches Scully with the proposition that they’ll drop all the obviously trumped-up charges against Mulder if he’ll help them find a kidnapped agent. Mulder’s initial agreement is reluctant, but the case quickly pulls him so far in that Scully fears it will consume them both.

Scottish actor Billy Connolly is nothing short of amazing as a disgraced priest whose visions of the crimes are suspected by Scully as fabrications to clear his name for the considerable sins of his past. Mulder desperately wants to believe him, but at what cost? Blue-eyed beauty Amanda Peet and Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner are really good, too, as the FBI agents in charge of the investigation.

Oh, and there’s a cameo by a classic X-Files character that will leave you cheering and smiling.

It brought a tear to my eye. I won’t lie.

Don’t expect any aliens or conspiracies; I Want to Believe is more in line with the show’s spectacularly scary stand-alone episodes but far more emotionally ambitious. Casual audiences might not get it because the X-File itself — as gruesome and as astoundingly disturbing as it is — isn’t what the film is really about.

It’s about Mulder and Scully, and Duchovny and Anderson deliver the best work they’ve ever done as these characters with a chemistry that had me in happy tears on more than one occasion.

The truth is out there, but The X-Files: I Want to Believe examines the truths within: conscience, faith, forgiveness, and hope in the face of paralyzing darkness and doubt.

Believe it.