"Sean Penn shows himself in this film as a sure-handed director with great
empathy for performance. He peoples his cast with great actors (Helen Mirren,
Vanessa Redgrave, Tom Noonan, Michael O'Keefe, Mickey Rourke, Lois Smith, Sam
Shepard, Del Toro, Stanton, Clarkson, Eckhart). That he and Nicholson were able
to attract such names for small roles speaks for itself."
Adam Smith, Empire Magazine:
"Nicholson is on top form, delivering a subtly moving performance... Penn's
direction, while sometimes painfully slow, is nevertheless full of atmospheric
moments, and Chris Menges' cinematography is coldly beautiful."
Philip Booth, Orlando Weekly:
"It's an eerie, troubling piece of work -- a carefully crafted, existential
thriller that represents a major artistic leap forward for Penn."
Todd McCarthy, Variety:
"Treading emotional and thematic territory similar to that of his two previous
directorial outings, Sean Penn delivers an artful downer in 'The Pledge.'
Absorbing dramatically and deeply committed to the acting processes of star Jack
Nicholson and the raft of impressive players supporting him, pic displays
evidence of Penn’s growing confidence and discipline behind the camera."
Lawrence Terenzi, Mr. Showbiz:
"Jack Nicholson passes on the ham, delivering a subtle, weighted performance
that neatly complements Sean Penn's growing confidence as a director."
Joanna Berry, Radio Times:
"Sean Penn proves his skill as a director and provides Jack Nicholson with his
best role in years in this slow-moving but utterly gripping drama, based on the
bleak existential novel by Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt... It's languidly
paced, downbeat and sombre, but continually gets under your skin thanks to
Penn's atmospheric direction and terrific performances from a cast that also
includes Aaron Eckhart, Sam Shepard and Mickey Rourke."
Douglas Curran, Tulsa World:
"Penn gives Nicholson his room to shine. But he also surrounds his star with an
amazing supporting cast -- all stars in their own right but willing to defer
here and ably reflect intensity back on Nicholson. Along with the always
reliable Wright Penn (the director's gifted wife) and Eckhart, there are strong
turns from Sam Shepherd as Jerry's steely commanding officer, Vanessa Redgrave
as a grieving grandmother, Mickey Rourke as the frantic father of a missing
child, Harry Dean Stanton as a wily gas station owner and Helen Mirren as a
Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post:
"Like the underrated Norwegian film 'Insomnia,' the multiple Cannes
prize-winning 'Humanity' and other thrillers of the noir nouveau ilk, 'The
Pledge' cares not a whit for such arbitrary concepts as justice, crime or
punishment. It understands the relativism of right and wrong and takes a kind of
perverse pleasure in reminding us that there are some things we'll never know."
"'The Pledge' is a rare thriller - and a rare American film - that centers on
both dramatic and moral issues, crises of conscience. And, thanks to a superb
central performance by Nicholson as detective Black, it's a film that compels,
thrills and ends up coming very close to tragedy."
Rosen, Denver Post:
"Penn has been able to attract an impressive supporting cast, including Vanessa
Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Shepard, Benicio Del Toro,
Mickey Rourke and Tom Noonan. Some of these are cameos, but of note is an
extraordinary police interrogation between a detective (Aaron Eckhart) and a
suspect (Del Toro)."
Keith Phipps, AV Club:
"Penn's direction remains understated in the best possible sense, letting his
carefully established setting and memorable performers propel the film. Not that
Penn doesn't deserve abundant credit, displaying a strong visual sense early and
often. But, like all good directors, he makes it easy to forget his presence
behind the camera of this dark and resonant mystery."
Juan-Carlos Selznick, News Review:
"The story’s landscape of characters and faces is large enough to have room for
Sam Shepard, Aaron Eckhart, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Mickey Rourke, Harry
Dean Stanton and Tom Noonan while still making less than optimal use of Benicio
Del Toro. Shepard and Eckhart make distinctive contributions to the police story
elements, while Redgrave and Mirren add briefly but tellingly to the tale’s
moral and psychological convolutions."
Owen Gleiberman, EW:
"Penn, as a filmmaker, has never met a moody pause he couldn’t over-extend, but
he’s got a real flair — for visual suspense, for landscape, for holding his
actors in the throes of slow-motion breakdown."
Clifford, Reeling Reviews:
"Director Sean Penn has assembled an incredible cast to flesh out the story...
He is supported by cinematographer Chris Menges and editor Jay Cassidy who
capture the gorgeous terrain and intimate interiors in unconventional ways."
Emanuel Levy, Screen Daily:
"'The Pledge' is an intriguing murder mystery that's also effective as a
psychological character study. Heading a splendid cast, Jack Nicholson gives a
riveting performance that dominates every frame of this broodingly intense
Peter Rainer, New York Magazine:
"Most of the featured players have only a scene or two, but they’re indelible.
The lineup is rich. We are treated to extended solos by Harry Dean
Stanton, Sam Shepard, Lois Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, and, as a mortally grieving
father, Mickey Rourke, in the most powerful piece of acting he’s ever done. If
Penn really lets these actors sing, his watchful camera also knows how to
respect their silences."
Bob Graham, San Francisco
"The mystery thriller starring Jack Nicholson and directed by Sean Penn is dark
and disturbing but thoroughly involving. It sets off depth charges of the
psyche... The movie is almost overloaded with talent, if such a thing is
possible. Penn has assembled an amazing array of character actors in supporting
roles - including Sam Shepard, Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Lois Smith,
Mickey Rourke and Harry Dean Stanton, and that's just for starters."