Log Line

An insurance investigator attempts to maintain a posture of emotional ruthlessness as she works to expose the truth of an art theft masterminded by a wealthy playboy.


Medium: Film

Writer(s): Leslie Dixon, Kurt Wimmer

Director(s): John McTiernan

Production Co.(s): Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), United Artists, Irish DreamTime

Story by: Alan R. Trustman

In The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), the main character, Catherine Banning, is an insurance investigator called in to solve an art theft masterminded by a wealthy executive, Thomas Crown. We-the-audience know that Thomas is responsible for the crime, because the first part of the movie shows us his explicit involvement in its execution—from his seemingly absentminded leaving behind of his briefcase in the gallery from which a valuable painting is later stolen to his role as an not-so-innocent bystander as a theft is attempted by a team of operatives... to his snatching of the painting while the museum guards are otherwise engaged... to his mounting of the painting in a secret vault in his study and the delight he seems to take in its possession.

He did it. We-the-audience saw him do it. We just don't know why.

In addition to leading us through the particulars of the theft, the early part of the story provides plenty of evidence to suggest that Thomas is smart, savvy, debonair, and very wealthy. So the motivation for his crime probably does not stem from financial need or foolishness. Pure sport is a far more likely motive—to experience the delight of proving himself smarter than other people and better equipped to get what he desires.

Enter Catherine Banning, an investigator from the insurance company that would rather see the painting returned than pay $100 million to the museum from which it was stolen. Like Thomas, she is smart, savvy, and capable of great cunning. She is also very attractive and not above using her wiles to obtain what she wants in life—whether the object of her desire is the truth behind an insurance investigation or, possibly, anything else.

Catherine concludes rather quickly that Thomas is responsible for the crime and embarks on a personal mission to prove her conclusion correct. And she conducts that mission in what seems to be a characteristic rogue-like fashion, much of it independent of the official authorities who are investigating the crime.

Although The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) derives many of its elements from an earlier film of the same title (see The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)), it differs in ways that significantly affect its structure and theme, as well as its ability to induce the audience to identify with its characters. It is told more efficiently than its namesake; the criminal caper that sets the story in motion consumes less screen time, and the main character (Catherine) appears at very outset of the investigation rather than after it has come to a standstill. And personal elements ascribed to the characters render them easier to like and identify with than those of the original film.

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