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Movie Review: A Look Back at “The X Files: I Want to Believe” (2008)

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Mulder’s depression is very apparent to someone who’s dealt with it. It’s been a struggle for me and it’s refreshing to see it portrayed accurately. David Duchovny plays the subtle cues of it masterfully. They don’t explicitly say he has it until the latest series revival but it’s extremely apparent in this movie. Mulder needs that drive, that purpose, or he just sort of stagnates and his internal darkness takes him. I think that’s what he meant in the end by saying that the Darkness just finds you no matter where you go. Maybe there’s just something about Mulder that draws this kind of stuff to him?

Scully’s crisis of faith trying to reconcile her personal feelings and her religious beliefs with saving this child’s life using stem cell therapy is the big emotional plot for her during the film. Why would God put a child through this? Gillian Anderson’s performance of hesitation and trying to fight the power of a religious institution is absolutely amazing. Sidenote: It is a little heavy-handed naming the kid Christian. That aside, I love the emotional beats of this movie. They’re well positioned within the flow of the story.

It’s not often that you see a movie that is actually Christian in tone ( the aspect of forgiveness at least). Billy Connolly’s never ending attempts for atonement and actual remorse from his past actions opened him up to be a vessel in which he can lead the agents to the girl through one of the children he abused. It really makes you wonder about what is truly forgivable and what lengths would you need to take to be forgiven for one of the most evil actions you can perform. Billy Connolly’s performance is nuanced and creepy and he especially shines in the scene where he’s crying blood. It’s very powerful imagery. I feel like it’s a defining role that really shows his growth as a serious actor and not just a comedian.

David Duchovny plays the person coming out of long-term isolation very well. I really connected with his struggle to believe in something.

Amanda Peet and Xzibit are decent in their roles but don’t stand out too much. They feel like their only reason is for exposition and motivation for the main characters. They just keep the plot going. They weren’t given enough time to flesh things out which is understandable, you gotta have more time for Mulder and Scully. I can’t complain much though, that happens in real life sometimes too. Right person, right time, right place, and then they just disappear and your life is forever changed by them.

The camera work in this is very lively and energetic, the visual language makes it fun to watch and is consistent throughout. It’s just a beautiful film. The color scheme is vivid and in the end gets very dark and the contrast with all the shadow conveys the seriousness and terror within the climax.

Mark Snow’s music is absolutely perfect. He took everything that made his work on both the series and previous X-Files movie, then combined it with his experience afterwards and brought out a true masterpiece of a score. The pieces that stick out the most are during Mulder’s solo detective work trying to track down the abductor at the beginning of the final act, as well as the scenes with Scully in the hospital. A few of the pieces were so beautiful I wept. Especially that final scene between Mulder and Scully where she’s heavily doubting her decisions and Mulder embraces her and gives her that moving speech about doing what’s right by her and for that kid. Even if that means stopping the treatment. That piece is so beautifully moving.

I really don’t feel like there’s a true villain to this movie. I can empathize with them. Your partner is dying and you’re willing to do anything to save them. You’ve got connections, even if dubious, maybe it’s all worth it? It’s a very mostly grey area and great for for X-Files to play with those themes and hard to deal with truths.

This movie is extremely underrated and I feel like it should be revisited with the right mindset that it’s about the characters and not the aliens. This movie hits so many wonderful emotional notes, has amazing camera work, fantastic music, and the actors really lose themselves in the role and become the characters. You don’t see David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson, you see Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. I urge you to watch this again with all this in mind. I unashamedly love this move and it deserves to be treated on its own merits.

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Alice Collins

Alice is a life-long lover of the so-called “lesser genres”, especially horror. The catharsis of it gives her comfort. She is a writer, musician, and a girl you don't want to play Tetris against. You'll find her frequently talking about assorted nerdy and LGBTQIA+ topics on Twitter. (She/Her). Like what I do? Buy me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/X8X2QRC9