Suspense thriller is one of the
subgenres of a film that is popular for its excitement and tension. It usually
includes crime scenes that trigger audience’s curiosity. Not only that, it also
has been known to give a sense of tension that can cause the audience to feel
uneasy and disconcerted. One film that can be taken as an example is a film
titled Fracture (2007) by Gregory
Hoblit. This film tells about an attempted murder case of the wife of an
aeronautical company owner named Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins). He shoots his own
wife after he discovers her affair with an LAPD detective. The case is brought
to the court and is prosecuted by a district attorney named William Beachum
(Ryan Gosling). The well-planned murder causes Beachum to have difficulties in
finding the evidence as he struggles to find the murder weapon to prove that
Crawford is guilty. As the story goes, both of them try to outwit one another
in order to win the trial. Despite the intriguing plot, the film also uses mise-en-scène elements—the technical elements of a film—to support its
thrill and suspense by creating dark atmosphere and build up the tension. They
are also used to signal the danger by showcasing the act of crime in the
beginning of the film and to strengthen the suspense and tension by giving a
gritty depiction of the crime scene. By showing the characteristics of a suspense-thriller
film, such as the dark atmosphere, the early action, and the gritty depiction
of the crime scene, through its mise-en-scène
elements, Fracture (2002)
can be categorized as a suspense-thriller film.

            First
of all, one of the characteristics of a suspense-thriller film is a dark,
threatening, and tense atmosphere that emphasizes the danger (Saricks, 2009). This
characteristic is supported by the tension that is built up and developed
throughout the story which makes the audience feels uneasy and disconcerted. As
an example, there is a scene in the film in minute 14:10-15:58 where Nunally,
the LAPD detective who has an affair with Crawford’s wife, is asking Crawford about
what happens to his wife inside the house. In this particular scene, the film
uses low-key lighting technique which creates a contrast between the dark and
bright parts of the image and shows a dark shadow on the actor’s face;
resulting in only half of the face that looks bright and the rest is left dark.

With this lighting technique, it creates a dark
atmosphere and gives a sense of threat as they are at the crime scene where
Crawford’s wife is dying. Also, regarding the setting and the camera technique,
the film uses tight framing and close-up shot to emphasize the tension, strong
emotion, and crisis during the conversation. These capture Crawford’s facial
expression which looks suspicious yet shows satisfaction after shooting his
wife. Furthermore, the dialogue between Nunally and Crawford makes the scene
even more tense and threatening because they are talking about the condition of
the wife, and Crawford admits that he has shot his wife.

            The
second characteristic of a suspense-thriller film is that the action begins
early in the beginning of the film to set up the danger so that it makes the
audience anticipate further conflict, confrontation, and resolution as the
story goes (Saricks, 2009). In the beginning of the film Fracture (2007), there is a scene in minute 08:33-10:46 where
Crawford is having a conversation with his wife and eventually shoots her. This
scene becomes the key conflict and danger in the film. It is shown in the
beginning of the film to evoke the audience’s curiosity about what are coming
next in the film. Moreover, this crime scene and the image of Crawford’s
shooting his wife are supported by the mise-en-scène
elements. For example, there is a use of camera techniques in
this scene: shot-reverse shot to indicate that Crawford and his wife are having
a conversation, close-up shot to show Crawford’s facial expression which is
full of anger towards his wife, and shallow focus which shows the gun at the
foreground clearly and makes the background blurry to emphasize that Crawford
is about to shoot his wife which gives a sense of danger

There is also the use of the low-key lighting technique
in this scene to create a dark and threatening atmosphere where an attempted
murder is happening. Besides that, an element of sound also supports the scene.
There is a use of diegetic sound of a gunshot which can be heard at the moment
Crawford pulled the trigger. This sound associates with the act of Crawford’s
shooting his wife which makes it more realistic to become a crime scene. Another
example is the dialogue of Crawford’s before he pulls the trigger. it signals
that he is furious and about to take revenge on his wife for betraying him.

            The
third characteristic of a suspense-thriller film is that it features gritty
depiction of the crime scene (Saricks, 2009). By showing the crime scene,
usually with weapons and blood splattered everywhere, it functions to create tension
and make the film even more suspenseful. In Fracture
(2007), there are two crime scenes that have tense mood and atmosphere in
the film. The first one is the crime scene in which Crawford’s wife is shot and
the second one is when Nunally shot himself to death. In the first crime scene,
it uses tight framing to focus on the bloodied body of Crawford’s wife on the
floor which creates tension. It also uses POV shot from Nunally’s POV to
identify the audience with him as he discovers Crawford’s wife’s body and to
give a sense of his being under pressure.

However, in
the second crime scene, although it uses tight framing to focus on Nunally’s bloodied
body and his gun which creates tension just like the first one, it also uses
loose framing and God’s Eye shot to show the location of the crime scene (see
Picture 3.2), which is at a court, and to display how the tension is felt by a
lot of people who are present at that court. Another thing is the element of
sound in both crime scenes. They use different background music, but both of
the music sound intense and give a sense of surprise yet sorrowful. They are
used to create the tense atmosphere when both of the bloodied bodies are
discovered lying on the floor.

            To
conclude, the film Fracture (2007) is
categorized as a suspense-thriller film because it shows some of the
characteristics of a suspense-thriller film, such as the dark, threatening, and
tense atmosphere, the action that begins early in the beginning of the film to
set up the danger, and gritty depiction of the crime scene. Moreover, all of
these characteristics in the film are supported by the elements of mise-en-scène, such as the low-key lighting techniques, camera
shots, element of sound, setting, and the dialogue of the film itself. All in
all, it is proven that a suspense-thriller film like Fracture (2007) involves tension and gives a sense of danger which makes
the audience feel uneasy and disconcerted, and it also includes crime scenes
which evoke the audience’s curiosity.