Paul Schrader is one of the most talented directors of so called "New Hollywood", and it's really strange that almost all the films he directed are poorly rated on IMDb. That refers to his most productive phase from 1978 to 1988, when he made crafty social dramas such as "Blue collar" and "Hardcore", stylistic look on rotten high class devouring the individual, such as "American gigolo", art house remake, such as "Cat people", and a true masterpiece, such as "Mishima - Life in four chapters". At the end of this period comes "Patty Hearst", a biography, or to be exact a segment in life of America's most famous hostage turned terrorist of the 70's. This subject, as interesting as it is, has a lot of pitfalls, for a film maker. Filming such a story may turn into an emotional travel down the road of ridiculousness, cemented in victim's distorted point of view. Not with craftsmen like Paul Schrader. He did this film just exactly as it should have been done, terrors of capture, mixed with bewilderment of being a hostage, turned into confusion and daze with one's captors, which is everything Patty Hearst went through in her months of captivity. Late Natasha Richardson's performance is indeed low key, but that's probably the way real Patty Hearst felt and behaved, after all the movie is based on her own book. Scenes of the first two weeks after the abduction, when all abductors appear as silhouettes in a doorway, and constant images of being shot and dumped in a ditch, perfectly show what was going through Patty Hearst's mind at the time. She was just 19 and like the opening of the movie said "ofcourse there's a little one can do to prepare for the unknown".
This film marked the end of Paul Schrader's directorial peak, but it's well done, well acted, character development and symbolism are in full use of the story, and it deserves a much higher rating than it has. If you're a fan of Schraders work, don't miss it, if not, well decide for yourself. Recommended!