Follow TV Tropes


Film / Frantic

Go To

"I'm looking for my wife."
Dr. Walker (several times)

A 1988 thriller film directed by Roman Polański, starring Harrison Ford and Emmanuelle Seigner.

Dr. Richard Walker (Ford) is a San Francisco surgeon visiting Paris with his wife Sondra for a medical convention. At their hotel Sondra is unable to unlock her suitcase, and Walker realises she's picked up the wrong one at the airport. While Walker is taking a shower, his wife mysteriously disappears from their hotel.

A witness claims to have seen Sondra being forced into a car, but both the French police and the U.S. embassy are skeptical, assuming she’s just run off with another man. Forced to investigate the matter himself, Walker runs into the owner of the suitcase, a young French girl called Michelle (Seigner) who works as a smuggler. As Michelle's contact (who was going to pay her) has been murdered, she and Walker must work together, finding themselves caught between two rival Middle East factions trying to get their hands on whatever it was Michelle was smuggling.

No relation to a series of browser games.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Walker starts as a surgeon attending a conference, and ends up solving a crime and facing down spies and bureaucrats alike.
  • And Another Thing...: The French detective does this trick on Walker.
  • Badass Israeli: Mossad's famed professionalism is subverted — one of the two Israelis is short-tempered and unprofessional.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Walker gets his wife back but Michelle gets killed during the exchange. Though by Polanski standards it practically counts as Happily Ever After.
  • Come Back to Bed, Honey: Walker pretends to do this to stop two agents from roughing up Michelle (actually Walker had just sneaked in through the bedroom window).
  • Dead Foot Leadfoot: Walker nearly gets run down by an Arab agent who is shot during the botched first Hostage for MacGuffin exchange.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Michelle dies, much to no-one's surprise.
  • Eagleland: An Invoked Trope of the Boisterous Bruiser flavour. When the Mossad agents hear Dr. Walker's American accent, as he's pretending to wake up in Michelle's bed, one of them says: "He's American, he may be crazy". Then Dr. Walker pushes one of them and says: "Don't mess with me, man, I'm an American and I am crazy!".
  • Ear Worm: Grace Jones singing "I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango)" is heard during key moments of the film, and Walker even asks what song it is at one point.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Averted; we only catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower towards the end of the movie. In fact Walker is momentarily confused to see the Statue of Liberty.
  • Empty Quiver: The item Michelle was smuggling turns out to be a krytron, a small electronic switch used in the detonators of nuclear devices.
  • French Jerk: Averted; while most Frenchmen are skeptical and reluctant to help Walker, no-one is openly rude about it.
  • Gay Paree: Averted with a modern and multicultural Paris.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Walker's first clue is a matchbook of the Blue Parrot nightclub, with the number of Michelle's contact written on it.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The film takes no sides with Arabs vs. Israelis, and both use morally dubious methods.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Ford does this with a stuffed animal during the Come Back to Bed, Honey scene. He manages to hold it there even after being savate-kicked unconscious.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Unfortunately it takes a while for the kidnappers to work out what happened with the suitcase swap, then there's a delay in contacting Walker as he's out searching for his wife, not waiting in his hotel room for her to call.
  • Hot in Leather: Emmanuelle Seigner, especially with her Commissar Cap.
  • I Have Your Wife: What the protagonist is frantic about.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: The fatally injured Michelle.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Michelle slips the kryton into Walker's pocket as she's dying.
  • Manly Tears: Shed while Walker is trying to pretend to his daughter back in the States that everything is normal.
  • Mating Dance: Walker is rather uncomfortable when Michelle starts dancing sensuously close to him in a tight red dress in the nightclub scene.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Everyone except Walker assumes his wife has run off with another man, and refuses to take seriously his talk of kidnapping. Likewise whenever one of Walker's medical colleagues sees him with Michelle. Walker however uses this trope for his advantage when the French detectives start to question Michelle.
  • Mistaken for Spies: The Walkers are assumed to be the next stage in the smuggling ring when they pick up the wrong suitcase.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: Walker ends up throwing the krytron into the river, so neither the Arabs or the Israelis can get it.
  • No Name Given: The Mossad agents are described in the credits as "Man in Tweed" and "Man in Leather", while the Arab agents are "The Kidnapper" and "The Bodyguard".
  • Nothing Good Ever Happens In A Parking Garage: The first attempt at a Hostage for MacGuffin exchange is set up in a multilevel parking garage; unfortunately it's gatecrashed by Mossad agents who turn it into a shootout.
  • Not What It Looks Like:
    • Played for Drama when a concierge tells Walker he saw his wife leave with another man who was holding his arm around her. Walker fails to convince the US embassy staff that the man was doing this because he has a gun in her ribs.
    • Walker runs into some colleagues at the airport when he goes with Michelle to recover the suitcase; it's obvious what they think he's up to with a young trashy-looking French girl.
    • Invoked by Walker when the French police show up at his hotel room and find him with Michelle; he plays up this appearance, acting the part of a sleazy American tourist so the police assume Michelle is just a young hooker rather than a key witness to the murder and kidnapping being investigated.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The U.S. Embassy officials and the French police. The former in particular are portrayed as moronic.
  • Ransacked Room: Walker returns to his hotel room to find it's been thoroughly searched.
  • Red Herring: The suitcase doesn't contain drugs as Walker initially believes.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The MacGuffin was likely inspired by attempts in The '80s by Pakistani and Israeli agents to buy nuclear triggers in the United States.
  • Ripped From The Phonebook: Walker rips the page where the gym address is, because, you see, it's très important.
  • Shirtless Scene: A couple involving Ford, and there's a Toplessness from the Back scene of Seigner changing her shirt.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The climax of the film takes place underneath the pont de Grenelle.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Michelle trying to get her payment from the Arabs, even after Walker had previously offered to reimburse her.
  • Translation Convention: Played straight but realistically — those Frenchmen who can speak English have a reason to do so, e.g. officialdom, travelers to the U.S., or a connection to the tourist trade.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Loads of this due to the Odd Couple relationship between Happily Married Walker and Wrong Side of the Tracks Michelle.
  • Unusual Euphemism: A black man in a nightclub offers to lead Walker to the "white lady". It turns out he's referring to cocaine.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Walker can't convince anyone his wife hasn't just run off with another man.