Little miss Muffet she sat on her tuffet, eating her curds eating and whey.
Along Came a Spider.
If you understand the implications of that, then you have the plot for this movie. It came out in 2001, featuring Morgan Freeman in the lead. It’s based on the book of the same name by James Patterson. Details are from Wikipedia. Here is the principal cast.
- Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross
- Monica Potter as Jezzie Flannigan
- Michael Wincott as Gary Soneji/The Spider
- Dylan Baker as Ollie McArthur
- Mika Boorem as Megan Rose
- Billy Burke as Ben Devine
- Anton Yelchin as Dimitri Starodubov
- Jay O. Sanders as Kyle Craig
- Michael Moriarty as Senator Hank Rose
- Penelope Ann Miller as Elizabeth Rose
- Anna Maria Horsford as Vickie
The story is the second in Patterson’s series about police detective Alex Cross. The opening shows a police sting operation go awry, and Cross’ partner is killed when a car plummets into what appears to be a dam spillway.
Cross is a long time recovering, blaming himself on his partner’s death. Then comes a crime that will brutally suck him back in. There is a private school for children of the upper-crust. One is Megan Rose, the very young daughter of Senator Rose. The other is Dimitri Starodubov, apparently son of the Russian Ambassador. The presence of the two merits Secret Service protection at the school.
We see Megan and Dimitri passing notes in class via a chat service on their computers. They giggle in delight. Their teacher is Gary Soneji, kindly, bewhiskered, plotting. After class, as other students are preparing to be picked up by parents and chauffeurs, Soneji calls Megan into his office to remonstrate her on a charge of plagiarism. It’s a ruse. He subdues her in preparation to sneak her out of the school. When she doesn’t show for being picked up, others become concerned. One concerned is Secret Service agent Flannigan. An unfortunate teacher goes to Soneji’s office and is strangled by the kindly professor.
Before the body of the teacher can be discovered, Soneji packs Megan into a utility cart, then out the door and into his van. He is gone before the perimeter can be closed. He stashes Megan below on his boat (this is Washington, D.C.) and removes the disguise he has used during his two years at the school. This job has been a long time planning. That’s a critical part of the plot, and a hint at the title.
In retirement and brooding, Cross spends his time building model sailing vessels. A phone call from Soneji stirs him to action. He is instructed to look in his mail box. It’s one of Megan’s shoes.
That gets him into the case. Agent Flannigan is to be sidelined. Cross insists she needs to remain. This is a federal matter, and the feds do not want interference from a local (retired) cop.
Soneji continues to phone Cross. There are no ransom demands. It is unclear what Soneji’s motives are. Discovering steganographic information in a GIF file (or more than one), case workers zero in and identify Soneji. They raid his home. Of course he’s on the boat.
Megan is a piece of work for a kid her age. She starts a fire on the boat and jumps into the water while Soneji is distracted. She swims toward shore, but the only result is that Soneji shoots the fisherman who comes to her rescue.
Watching this through one time I never picked up on the Dimitri connection, but apparently Soneji makes use of the chat connection between Megan and Dimitri to lure the Russian boy out of the secure Embassy compound. Cross and Flannigan anticipate the ruse and go to the Embassy to talk. They are rebuffed, but Flannigan considers they should set a stakeout and watch. It pays off. Dimitri receives messages through the chat channel and sneaks out of the compound, apparently thinking he is communicating with Megan.
Flannigan spots Dimitri in the rain and then Soneji, who has just murdered two D.C. police and taken their car. There is a fierce gun battle, but Soneji gets away, and Russian security guards exit the compound with guns aimed at Cross and Flannigan. Dimitri is unharmed, but that’s the last we see of him in the movie.
I’m guessing Dimitri was Soneji’s original target, and now his scheme has fallen apart. He returns to his boat to dispatch the unfortunate Megan, but she is gone. Where? Nobody knows. Not Soneji, not the fuzz. Something is rotten in the District of Columbia.
Another call comes from Soneji, with a ransom demand. Millions in diamonds in a thermos jug. Cross will deliver it. He chases around D.C. and finally onto a Metro train, where he is commanded to toss the jug out the train window to the man waiting beside the tracks. While the crowd, including Flannigan, crouches low he fires his weapon to shatter the glass. The waiting person picks up the booty.
At Cross’ house, he and Flannigan mull over the turn of events. This has not turned out the way expected. This ransom business is not in Soneji’s character. There is a knock on the door. It’s the police. Not really. It’s Soneji, and when Flannigan answers he stuns her with a taser and confronts Cross.
Cross and Soneji engage in a battle of words, while Flannigan slowly comes about. Then the culmination, as words turn into a deadly duel, and Cross dispatches Soneji with a blast from an antique shotgun. He has killed the only person who knows where Megan is. Or has he?
We see Flannigan meeting up with fellow agent Devine, her partner in the school detail. He has the diamonds, and he also has Megan locked away. Flannigan insists it’s time to kill Megan, but the body must never be found, because Soneji is already dead, and it would be problematic to now pin the murder on him. But that won’t completely resolve the issue. Somebody else needs to die. Flannigan shoots Devine, then she heads to the shed nearby where Megan is stashed.
Megan—smart girl—has barricaded the entrance to her confinement, and Flannigan tries to coax her to open the door. This is your friend, Agent Jezzie Flannigan, come to take you home. But Megan is too smart for that. Where are the others? Why are you alone?
Flannigan is stymied, and she attempts to break into the locked enclosure. That failing, she fires her pistol through the door, but Megan is barricaded behind a mattress and other items. Flannigan gets on top of the enclosure and empties another magazine. By now this must be attracting some kind of attention.
By now Cross has figured the plot. Flannigan and Devine watched Soneji for two years and worked out his scheme. Their plan was to horn in and to make a bundle. Searching records, Cross identifies a rented building, and he goes there to confront, and ultimately to kill Flannigan. He takes Megan home.
Little miss Muffet she sat on her tuffet, eating her curds eating and whey
Along came a spider who sat down beside her
And frightened miss Muffet away.
Soneji thought he had a neat scheme working, but along came a spider.
This is one of those plots for which a lot of stuff has to go right—entirely to much stuff.
Flannigan and Devine unraveled Soneji’s scheme as they observed him for months, and they knew he was planning to take Megan to the boat and to hoax Dimitri. They collaborated to ensure the net was not closed too quickly when Soneji made his move to snatch the girl. They counted on too much.
If the unfortunate teacher had raised the alarm upon seeing young Megan on the floor, it would have been all over then.
If Megan’s escape attempt had been successful, it would have been all over then.
While Soneji is away attempting to abduct Dimitri, Devine snatches the girl from the boat. Soneji, finding her missing, goes where? Straight to where Cross and Flannigan are commiserating. How did he know they would be there?
He stuns Flannigan. What if he had used the same pistol he used in the rain-drenched gun battle? It would have been all over at that point for Flannigan.
Things begin to winkle out when Cross decides it’s safe to kill Soneji. Somebody else knows where Megan is.
There is unwarranted melodrama with the disaster episode in the opening scene.
Otherwise, a first class production, well directed by Lee Tamahori.