A Simple Plan (**** ½) – I absolutely love it when a film tightens its screws to the point of nervous exhaustion. The film is so subtle in its set-ups and consequences that even if you see one or two of the twists coming, you can’t anticipate the next ones.And what’s so special about this thriller, which doesn’t have the most original of plots, are the characters. Well-drawn out, seemingly simple, but much more complicated. Usually these films are all about the twists and turns of the plot, but this one gives its characters interesting things to say in between the plot twists. There are worthy Oscar clip scenes given to Billy Bob Thornton (in a very Lenny/Steinbeck inspired role) and Bridget Fonda, both equally terrific in creating much deeper portraits than meets the eye at first. But Bill Paxton is so great as well. Along with Jeremy Piven, Paxton is one of my personal favorites, as well as being immensely underrated, and his role here is not as showy as the other two, but he’s the one trying to balance everything around him. In many scenes, it’s an almost silent performance, so well-orchestrated, that you feel sympathetic and nervous for him, just by reading his eyes – because you can see what he’s thinking. There are moments when these characters open up to one another so emotionally that I was almost driven to the brink of tears. It’s that powerful. And the ending. My God is it one of the best of the year - suspenseful, heartbreaking, and filled with irony.I don’t wanna say too much. All I can say is that the ending is one of the most powerful of the year and I walked out still looking to catch my breath. One of the year’s best.