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By Jeremy Mathews | January 27, 2008

“The Broken” has the makings of a classic horror story that distorts our values of identity and individuality. Unfortunately, the story itself never materializes. The film fails to displays its potential and deprives us of its promises.

The film’s entire thrust comes from one disturbing and fascinating scene in which a woman (Lena Headey) sees a woman who looks just like herself drive by in her own car. This setup could launch several intriguing tales, but winds up in a quagmire of unclear, manipulative storytelling.

Like any woman who sees her doppleganger, she follows her home, on foot, while the doppleganger drives a car. The film doesn’t explore her presumed history as an Olympic track star. Go figure. Once she gets to the parking lot, the scene oddly cuts away to the character getting back in her car and crashing into another vehicle head-on. After that, her memory is hazy, her boyfriend starts acting sinister and she suspects that the doppleganger is going to kill everyone.

Despite his visual flare and intriguing ideas, British writer/director Sean Ellis lacks subtlety. He makes it very clear from the beginning that things are ominous, with a low, booming score and moody lighting. There’s no real mystery as to whether they’re evil or not. They act normal and friendly or they act like emotionless drones.

But Ellis is at his most infuriating when he suggests concepts only to abandon them. Slow-motion memories of events from prior to the crash suggest a series of clues that will be pieced together. But the closer “The Broken” moves to its conclusion, the more clear it becomes that it’s all smoke and mirrors. The ending cheats the audience and abandons everything interesting about the build-up. The story is left in shards.

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