31 Days of Reviews: The Number 23 (2007)

When a mysterious book enters his life, Walter becomes more and more obsessed with the 23 enigma, the idea that all incidents and events are related to the number 23. As he approaches the end of the book, paranoia escalates and he begins to fear for his own life.

I had seen The Number 23 before. I think I saw it once, nearly a decade ago. At the time, I was young. I remember liking it when I first watched it back then. It has recently been added to Netflix streaming, so I added it to my list. I wanted to know if I still liked it, knowing what I know now.

The Number 23 stars Jim Carrey as the main character Walter Sparrow. It features Virginia Madsen (Sideways), Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Danny Huston (Wonder Woman), and Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural) as well. All things considered, it has a pretty great cast. Say what you want about Jim Carrey’s serious roles, but he has shown that he can pull it off.

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With that being said, his acting seems off in this movie. It could come down to the story itself. It could be the direction he was given. It could be him. I don’t know the specifics of that. All I do know is that there are many times where his character just doesn’t feel right. Now, you may say that this has to do with the overall story, and I would agree with you about that to an extent. I do wonder what a different actor would have done with the role though.

If I were to put myself in the shoes of my younger self to see why I liked this movie when I first watched it, I would say it was the overall idea of the story. The Number 23 is a psychological thriller, dripping with conspiracy theory. It relies heavily on paranoia. All of these aspects explain why I remembered liking it so much.

When I watch it now, it’s much more apparent to me how sloppy the story actually is. The way it progresses doesn’t really do a great job of keeping the viewer invested. By the time it reaches its end, it feels like a let down despite being a pretty hefty twist. The story could have been handled better. It really is an interesting concept.

In terms of style, The Number 23 definitely seems dated. The movie was released in 2007, and you can see many of the styles and techniques that were used during that time. It attempts to be a bit of a noir. It’s very reminiscent of the 2005 movie Sin City, both in that noir voiceover feel and some visual aspects. It’s also really dark, visually, like it’s literally dark. I had a hard time seeing what was going on sometimes.

Other than the darkness, there’s some really good cinematography in The Number 23. I enjoyed a lot of the canted angles. There’s some good usage of the push pull, even though some of them are gratuitous. I mentioned above that some of it seems dated when watching it in 2017, such as a long, shaky run into madness down an alley, but that was pretty great at the time.

I still enjoy a lot of the aspects of the story. I think the whole numerology conspiracy, if revisited today and done a little better, could be really timely. Unfortunately, it didn’t go over well when The Number 23 was released. It’s got a really low score on Rotten Tomatoes, and most of the reviews I see today are negative.

It really is unfortunate. If you’re into conspiracy stories, you could possibly go into The Number 23 with an open mind and enjoy it for what it is. It’s not a masterpiece by any means. It could have been far better, especially with the resources they had at their disposal.


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