The Fear Index [5/10]

Why is justly praised thriller writer Robert Harris so badly adapted to film? “The Fear Index” is the second Harris adaptation I’ve watched this year (in a review, I rated Munich as 5/10) and I am so disappointed. As a screen adaptation of four episodes, it is a mess that retains some of the book’s excitement but dashes the viewing experience on rocks of lackluster casting and clumsy scripting. Harris’s 2011 novel was a thumping thriller exploring the leading-edge investment frontier of computerization, both fascinating and packed with adventure. The screen season began well enough, with our hero, the geeky founder of a firm using computer algorithms to amass data and analyze investment opportunities, attacked in his luxury home and then baffled by a dizzying escalation of strange threats. The first two episodes captured what I recalled of the book, the orchestrated thrills and the imparting of information about a strange human world, although even then it was clear that the appealingly drawn intellectual of the book had morphed onscreen into a histrionic dodo of wooden emotions. But midway through, the entire exercise turned into a pointless blur of half-decent actors eking out a plotline that captured a fraction of the richness of the novel. In the book, the climax is sound and fury and catharsis; onscreen, the climax is clumsy and inauthentic. If you are fascinated by the investment world, by all means view The Fear Index; the premise is wonderful. But as drama, it falls short of any recommendation threshold.

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