Frantic (film)

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Frantic (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoman Polanski
Produced by
Written by
Music byEnnio Morricone
CinematographyWitold Sobociński
Edited bySam O'Steen
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • February 16, 1988 (1988-02-16) (United Kingdom)
  • February 26, 1988 (1988-02-26) (United States)
  • March 30, 1988 (1988-03-30) (France)
Running time
120 minutes
  • United States
  • France
  • English
  • French
Budget$20 million
Box office$17.6 million (USA)[1]

Frantic is a 1988 American-French mystery thriller film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Harrison Ford and Emmanuelle Seigner. The film score is by Ennio Morricone.


Dr. Richard Walker (Harrison Ford) is a surgeon visiting Paris with his wife Sondra (Betty Buckley) for a medical conference. At their hotel, she is unable to unlock her suitcase, and Walker determines that she picked up the wrong one at the airport. While Walker is taking a shower, his wife receives a phone call that Walker can't hear and mysteriously disappears from their hotel room.

Still jet-lagged, he searches for her in the hotel with the help of a polite but mostly indifferent staff and then wanders outside to look for her himself. A vagrant overhears him in a café and says he saw Walker's wife being forced into a car in a nearby alley. Walker is skeptical until he finds his wife's ID bracelet on the cobblestones. He contacts the Paris police and the U.S. Embassy, but their responses are bureaucratic, and there is little hope anyone will bother looking for her. As Walker carries on the search himself (with merely sympathetic concern from the hotel staff), he stumbles onto a murder site where he encounters the streetwise young Michelle, who mistook Walker's wife's suitcase at the airport. He discovers that Michelle is a career drug smuggler, but does not care or know for which dealers -- the friend that hired her, Dédé, worked for some shady people. Michelle reluctantly helps Walker in his frantic attempt to learn what was packed in her switched suitcase, and how to trade the contents for the return of his kidnapped wife.

Following their visit to Michelle's apartment, Walker's hotel room and shabby cabarets, it turns out that the smuggled contents are not drugs, but a krytron, an electronic switch used as detonator for nuclear weapons, stolen and smuggled inside a cheap replica of the Statue of Liberty on the orders of some Arab agents. The American embassy, working with Israeli agents, wants to get hold of the precious device, having no problem letting Sondra die for it. In order to save his wife, Walker joins forces with Michelle, who is only interested in getting her paycheck.

The film ends with a confrontation down the Seine banks where Walker's wife is to be exchanged for the krytron. However, a gunfight ensues between the Arab agents who were to get the device, and the Israeli agents who traced and followed them. During the cross-fire, the Arabs are killed and Michelle is hit, dying soon after having slipped the krytron into Walker's pocket, with Sondra at her side. Furious and distressed, the doctor shows it to the Israeli agents up on the bridge, then throws it into the Seine. He then carries Michelle's body out of the scene, and the couple leave Paris.




Filming took place on location in Paris with exteriors filmed outside Le Grand Hotel in rue Scribe in the 9th arrondissement. The hotel's lobby also appeared in the film.[2] Filming also took place at the Île aux Cygnes island in the Seine for the Lady Liberty scenes.[3]


Frantic was released in the UK on 16 February 1988, with a release of 26 February in the US and a 30 March release in France.[4]


Box office[edit]

The film was a disappointment at the box office with a domestic gross of $17,637,950, failing to recoup its production budget. However the film was more successful in other countries such as France where it received 1,293,721 admissions.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Although a commercial failure, Frantic was a critical success. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 78% of critics gave positive reviews based on a sample of 41 reviews with an average rating of 6.4/10.[6]

The film received "Two Thumbs Up" from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on the TV show Siskel & Ebert and The Movies.[7] Pat Collins of WWOR-TV called it "Polanski's best film ever."[8] Desson Howe of the Washington Post called the movie "vintage Polanski", with its relentless paranoia, irony, diffident strangers and nutty cameos.[9] British film magazine Empire rated the movie three out five, calling it Polanski's most satisfying film since Chinatown, and one of the best traditional thrillers to come down the pike in quite some time.[10] Roger Ebert in his review gave the movie three stars, saying "to watch the opening sequences of Frantic is to be reminded of Polanski's talent. Here is one of the few modern masters of the thriller and the film noir. Frantic is a reminder of how absorbing a good thriller can be." [11]


  1. ^ "Frantic Domestic Total Gross". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  2. ^ Sandford, Christopher (2007). Polanski. London: Random House. pp. 368–369. ISBN 9781844138791.
  3. ^ "Frantic Filming Locations". Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Frantic Release Dates". Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  5. ^ "Frantic (1988) – JPBox-Office". JPBox-Office. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  6. ^ "Reviews at Rottentomatoes". Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  7. ^ Siskel & Ebert and The Movies[permanent dead link] - review
  8. ^ Frantic DVD, Warner Brothers, 1998, ISBN 0-7907-3855-4
  9. ^ "Frantic Review". Washington Post. 26 February 1988. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  10. ^ "Frantic Review". Empire Magazine. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  11. ^ "Frantic Review". 26 February 1988. Retrieved 8 August 2013.

External links[edit]