Director Gregory Hoblit has been here before, mining material similar to that of his first feature film, Primal Fear (which featured a memorable debut from Edward Norton). As in that film, Hoblit ensures that the narrative tricks play second fiddle to the confrontation between the two lead actors, Ryan Gosling and Anthony Hopkins (playing a young prosecutor and a wealthy murder suspect, respectively).
Hopkins, his voice rich in his original Welsh accent, is much better here than is often the case when he's on the Hollywood dollar, referencing his original turn as Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs but toning down the subsequent ham, while Gosling has held on to something of the rawness of his recent turn in Half Nelson, investing his character's hard-scrabble back story with more than usual conviction. Hoblit shoots the film in a calm, precise style, lingering over surfaces and shadows, of which there is no shortage in Hopkins's remarkable house, where the film's plot kicks into gear. It's a nice contrast to the more frenetic style that's so characteristic of recent Hollywood storytelling, allowing ample room for the actors to work, rather than reducing them, Bourne-like, to a single expression for the duration of the movie.