YEAR:  2001

ROLE:  Detective Eric Pollack

DIRECTOR:  Sean Penn

PREMIERE:  January 9, 2001

Plot Summary

A veteran detective investigates a child murder in small-town Nevada, a case he carries over into his retirement by moving into the neighborhood where the killing occurred. When he begins a relationship with a local mother and her young daughter, he has all the more reason to nail the killer - but by this time his colleagues reckon they have long since wrapped up an open-and-shut case.

Film Details

Jack NICHOLSON - Jerry Black
Aaron ECKHART - Stan Krolak
Robin WRIGHT - Lori
Sam SHEPARD - Eric Pollack
Helen MIRREN - Doctor
Vanessa REDGRAVE - Annalise Hansen
Harry Dean STANTION - Floyd Cage
Benicio DEL TORO - Toby Jay Wadenah
Mickey ROURKE - Jim Olstad
Patricia CLARKSON - Margaret Larsen
Lois SMITH - Helen Jackson

Blu-ray Release
October 13, 2020
Cannes Film Festival

May 15, 2001 - In competition for the Palme d'Or. In attendance was Sean Penn, Robin Wright and Aaron Eckhart.

Production Notes:

Filmed in British Columbia, Canada from February to May 2000. The 55-day shooting schedule required the staging of the spring, summer and fall seasons.

Publicity Stills

Roger Ebert:
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 probing psychiatrist."

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."

Chicago Tribune:
"'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."

Steven 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."

Laura 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 drama."

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 Chronicle:
"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."